Jeanne McRight: A Ceramist who migrated to Canada because of the escalation of the Vietnam War

Jeanne McRight was born in Delaware and was awarded her MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia before moving to Canada.  In 1970, after Nixon invaded Cambodia, McRight and her husband, Wayne Cardinalli, along with a group of like-minded artist friends decided to emigrate to Canada, “our welcoming multicultural neighbor, where country property was affordable and a renaissance in the arts had begun”.

McRight and Cardinalli built studios on our 50-acre farm, set up a small storefront gallery in nearby Hastings, Ontario, and began connecting with artists and craftspeople coming out of the new programs at Sheridan as well as other American and Brit ex-pats. They arrived at a good time.  Besides becoming involved locally, Jeanne began to explore her identity through a series of installations.  Cardinalli became Chairman of the Ontario Clay and Glass Association, later Fusion.  Their work was exhibited with the Ontario Potters Association, the biennial ‘Fireworks’ exhibition as well as in galleries across Canada and in the United States.

McRight’s work is often influenced by ‘happenings’ around her.  A multimedia performance collaboration book place at Trent University in 1987.  It was influenced by the Badlands of Canada and the late John Chalke.  You can see it on youtube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xICXWJNpEro&sns=em

McRight is the woman in the khaki shorts throwing bisque ware artefacts into the cracked clay surface.

McRight taught full time after 1990 for the Etobicoke School of the Arts in Toronto.  She is now retired and has a studio in Mississauga, Ontario.

Her work in ceramics, photography, and painting is informed by a search for identity and memory set within the context of history.  She investigates our interaction with natural and manufactured objects removed from their original context and how those changes and our interactions create new meanings.  McRight’s work has been recognized by the Ontario Arts Council through more than thirty grants and two Canada Council grants.

McRight’s lifelong artistic practice in ceramics, painting and photography explores how identity is shaped by sensory experience and memory within the context of history. I often use local geologic features and archaeological excavations as places of departure, working in sequential series. Also, I like to investigate our interactions with natural and man-made artefacts removed from original contexts and how those interactions charge the objects with new meaning. I am the recipient of over 30 Ontario Arts Council grants and awards, and two Canada Council B grants.

Author: maryannsteggles

I am a Professor at the School of Art, University of Manitoba where I teach art history and studio ceramics. My current research is on the history of Canadian wood firing, the marginalization of women within ceramics, and the impact of Vietnam era migrants on the history of Canadian ceramics. You can reach me at my e-mail address: maryann.steggles@umanitoba.ca