Artist    ·    Artist Statement    ·   Bio / Résumé   ·    Video   ·    Publications   ·    Events  


Biography   ·   Resumé

                           Artist at her treadle wheel


Even as early as primary and secondary school in her home city Brooklyn, New York, Rene Salzman was caught up with art.  She was graduated from high school in 1958, a time when career choices for women were seen by society through a much narrower lens than they are today. Therefore when she entered the University of Michigan, it was with plans to become a secondary school art teacher. In her junior year, while taking a sculpture course, she wandered into the pottery studio and was so stirred by what she saw there, that she signed up for a ceramics course. She went on to complete a Master of Fine Arts degree in ceramics in 1964 (the first female student at the University of Michigan to accomplish this). It really had been love at first sight.

Because of her experience as a teaching fellow while at Michigan, Rene had expected to become an instructor of ceramics on the college level, but there were few college programs for Ceramics in the mid 1960s. Her venerated teacher John Stephenson recommended that she take one year off to focus on her own clay work in a professional setting. And so she returned to Brooklyn where she commuted daily by subway and rail to the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, New York.

She took her newly purchased stand-up treadle wheel (a favorite of the Mid-Western clay people) and moved it to an area on the first floor of the Clay Art Center.  It was a large space, but lacked heat or hot water.  Here she began to throw and hand build pots. People who were serious about working in clay were attracted to the Clay Art Center both because of its facilities as well as its inspirational founder, Henry Okamoto, who watched over them all. Henry, with his ever-present woolen cap, flicking cigarette, and silent demeanor seemed an unlikely parental figure.  But upon reflection after all of these years, Rene realized that Henry cared deeply for all of the potters there, and he did what he could to keep them firmly in the clay world.  As she said during a speech at a recent Clay Art Center event, “He was truly the loving mother,  soft when he had to be (by allowing people to work when they had no money to pay for the rent), firm when necessary (by letting them know when it was time for them to leave the Clay Art Center and be on their own) and supportive of their creative efforts. He never gushed about your work, and his approval was rare, but when he gave you the nod, it meant that the piece was successful."

A typical day there was filled, not only with intense concentration on her own work, but with interactions with many others who felt as strongly about clay as Rene did.  In fact, it gradually became a hub for a large group of wonderful and intense potters, and Rene (by then Rene Murray) felt  privileged to be a part of that. One exciting year turned into eight exciting years. Working in clay had became a full-time profession. Spending almost every day at this establishment was one of the great experiences of her life. By the early 1970's, however, Murray’s increased productivity and ideas were out-pacing the firing schedules at the Clay Art Center, so with the blessing of Henry Okamoto, she decided to search for a studio of her own.

In 1971, Rene’s father, deciding that he wanted to be alive to see his daughter enjoy what was to be her inheritance, and believing the moment to be right, bought a small industrial building near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn for her to outfit as her studio. He wanted to be able to provide a facility for his daughter to create clay art without having to spend hours commuting in order to have access to professional equipment and space .There already had been a good beginning to this project because a dear friend and fellow ceramist had rented this same  place as her own studio, and even had built a gas-firing kiln there before she decided to relocate outside of New York.  Rene’s parents, learning much about ceramics over the years through her had become staunch supporters of her choice of profession, and they proudly rejoiced in her utilization and enjoyment of this mighty gift. It was perfect. Thirty seven years later(even though her parents are gone) it is still the perfect place in which to work.

During these years Rene has periodically taught on the college level and enjoyed it. However, her true love and commitment has always been to her work at the studio where she has produced thousands of pieces of pottery and sculpture. She has showed her work and sold it right from the studio usually twice a year. Many of her devoted followers have been purchasing her pieces for more than 40 years. Her work is in private collections around the world, as well as being represented in Michigan’s, Detroit Institute of Art, and the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York.

In 2009 Rene Murray began working on a series of pieces that were architectural in nature, based on the buildings of Brooklyn and Italy, and rendered as if from a dream. She had a solo exhibition of these works in October 2009 at Clay Art Center, Port Chester, New York. From 2009 to the present, Murray has continued to use architectural structures as the inspiration for her sculptures. She has shown her new works in numerous shows and for the last three years she has participated in the prestigious SOFA Chicago exhibition.