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Don Reitz Papers, circa 1935-2015

Reitz, Don, 1929-2014

Art teacher, Ceramicist

Collection Information

Size: 11.6 Linear feet; 11.2 Gigabytes

Summary: The papers of artist and educator Don Reitz measure 11.6 linear feet and date from circa 1935 to 2015. The collection documents Reitz's work as a professional artist and educator through biographical material, correspondence; writings, interviews and lectures; documentation on workshops and performances; studio records; gallery and exhibition files; printed material, photographic material, and artwork.

Biographical/Historical Note

Don Reitz (1929-2014) was a ceramic artist in Clarkdale, Arizona. Don Reitz (1929-2014) was a ceramic artist in Clarkdale, Arizona. Reitz was born in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, and was raised in Belvidere New Jersey, before serving for four years in the U.S. Navy as a diver. After years working as a butcher and a house painter, Reitz attended Kutztown State Teachers College, where he studied Abstract Expressionism and discovered ceramics in his last year of study. Reitz quickly developed a passion for ceramics, built a kiln in his back yard, and enrolled in graduate school at Alfred University's New York State College of Ceramics. From 1962 to 1988 Reitz led the ceramics department at University of Wisconsin at Madison, while he raised his two children Brent and Donna on a nearby farm, where he also kept livestock and experimented in ceramic firing techniques. Don Reitz is known for bringing the salt-firing ceramics technique to the United States, in which colorful metallic surfaces are applied to ceramics by throwing salt in the kiln, as opposed to applying paint-like slips on the clay before firing. Reitz is also widely recognized for expanding the traditional medium of ceramics to incorporate abstract and nonfunctional forms like his contemporaries Peter Voulkos and Rudy Autio, as well as incorporating elements of performance art into his demonstrations and workshops. In 1982 Reitz suffered injuries from a serious automobile accident and required years of rehabilitation. During this time Reitz's niece, Sara, was undergoing treatment for cancer. The two were instrumental in each other's recovery and elements of Sara's drawings for Don were incorporated into his work, imbuing a graphic sensibility and a bold use of color, while his ability to physically manipulate clay was impaired. In 1988 Reitz moved to a ranch in Clarksdale, Arizona, where he continued to work after his retirement from teaching, building kilns of various types including wood-fire and Anagama kilns, traveling to conduct workshops, and accepting commissions for large-scale commissions and public works. While in Arizona, Reitz developed a strong friendship with Japanese ceramicist Yukio Yamamoto, who had been teaching in Flagstaff, Arizona. Throughout his career Reitz received numerous accolades including being named Trustee Emeritus of the American Craft Council, and making the Ceramic Monthly Reader's Poll as One of Twelve Greatest Living Ceramic Artists Worldwide in 1988 and 2001. Reitz's works are featured in numerous private and museum collections including the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the High Museum of Art. Don Reitz passed in 2014 after suffering from a series of heart attacks and related surgeries.

Provenance

Donated in 2017 by Brent Reitz, Don Reitz's son.

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