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In Praise of Lesser Gods

In praise of lesser gods

Flawed but beautiful, like us.
By Don Cheek And Tom Stites
Summer 2006 5.15.06

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Don Cheek was 56 and a successful land-use planner who had long yearned to try working with earth in a different way. He had just finished a major project, and with a gap before the next one, the time had come. He started with customary pottery forms, but soon tired of it and turned to sculpture. That led to shows and prizes, largely in the South.

The lesser gods that this sculpture praises, Cheek says, are men and women. The clay he selected contains a lot of iron, and he fired it in a way that brings out the iron and turns the clay a rusty color. During the firing process he distressed the piece to create some flaws. Then he tore newspaper, enameled it a bronze color similar to the natural color of the fired clay, and used it to paper over the flaws—the way we lesser gods so often do. “The clay will last thousands and thousands of years,” Cheek said, “and the newspaper is ephemeral, for contrast.”

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