Former visual arts professor Takaezu passes away at 88
Former visual arts professor and ceramic artist Toshiko Takaezu passed away Wednesday in Hawaii. She was a faculty member with the University’s Visual Arts Program from 1967 to 1992. She was 88 years old.
“Ms. Takaezu instilled in generations of learners a sense of art, discipline and the possibilities of clay,” Council of the Humanities Executive Director Carol Rigolot said in an e-mail.
Rigolot is also a member of The Daily Princetonian Board of Trustees.
Takaezu had a reputation for being “the most difficult grader on campus” — taking a hammer and destroying any pieces that were not satisfactory, Rigolot said, adding that Takaezu also brought many learning opportunities to her students.
“Each semester she invited her classes to come to her studio, which is a magical place, to see where her work is created and to learn the ancient Japanese art of Raku firing,” Rigolot said.
Rigolot added that students revered Takaezu. On her 80th birthday, alumni of her ceramics classes gave her a treasure box filled with messages of gratitude and admiration.
Born in Pekeekeo, Hawaii, in 1922, Takaezu studied at the Honolulu Academy of Arts, the University of Hawaii and the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. She taught for 10 years at the Cleveland Institute of Art before coming to Princeton. She was awarded an honorary degree by the University in 1996.
Takaezu’s work was influenced by traditional Japanese pottery. While she began her career making functional pieces, she later created abstract sculptures. Takaezu is best known for her use of the “closing of the vessel form” in producing pieces of art.
“What speaks loudly in each of Toshiko’s creations is the dialogue between the artist’s hands, the careful working and nurturing of the clay, the dance of glaze and colors, and the magical whim of fire,” the University Art Museum’s Curator of Asian Art Cary Liu said in an e-mail.
Her work is currently displayed in many museum collections throughout the world, including that of the Smithsonian Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Museum of Art in Kyoto.
Some of Takaezu’s pieces are on display at the University. Three pots are featured in the main corridor of the Lewis Center for the Arts at 185 Nassau Street. They were given to the University by two alumni in memory of John Pozzi ’78.
The University Museum houses more of her works and held an exhibition last year from June 26 to Sept. 11 titled “Presence and Remembrance: The Art of Toshiko Takaezu.” Her bronze “Remembrance Bell” was chosen by President Shirley Tilghman to mark the entrance to the University’s garden commemorating the alumni victims of 9/11.
“The bell is a testimony to the variety of genres and media in which Toshiko Takaezu excelled,” Rigolot said in an e-mail. “For all of us who revered her, the bell will henceforth have the added dimension of being a memorial to her.”