“Inner Lives: Cinerary Jars by Julian Stair and Rob Barnard”

March 3 – 27, 2020

Rob Barnard, “Covered Jar 1”
Collection of Rob and Joseline Wood

“Inner Lives,” an exhibition by ceramics artists Julian Stair and Rob Barnard, will be on display at the Branch Museum of Architecture and Design from March 3 – 27. Stair and Barnard have achieved international awards and recognition for their pieces that showcase the versatility of the medium while remaining utilitarian in form and function.

The subject of the exhibition is cinerary jars, but it is about the inner life of human beings. Julian Stair and Rob Barnard occupy a rather unique position in the ceramics field: not only are they makers, but also writers who have argued in countless articles about pottery’s ability to simultaneously operate on numerous levels to connect with our inner lives. They have sought in their work to restore the connection between works of art and the ordinary events, burdens, and suffering that make up the human experience.

Barnard is one of America’s most respected potters with work in public collections including the Museum of Art and Design, New York; Renwick Gallery, Smithsonian; Everson Museum, Syracuse and has received two National Endowment for the Arts awards.. Working out of the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, for the last 40 years, Barnard has established a reputation as an eloquent advocate of pottery within contemporary art practice through both his artistic output and critical writing for journals such as American Crafts, The New Art Examiner, Studio Potter and Ceramics, Art and Perception.

Stair is one of the leading potters in the UK, training at Camberwell School of Art and the Royal College of Art, London. His work is represented in numerous public collections including the V&A; British Museum; Mashiko Museum of Ceramic Art; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and Kolumba Museum, Germany. Besides exhibitions, he frequently works to commission, recently completing an altar and font for St Augustine’s Church, London. He is also a ceramic historian and has written for the Courtauld Institute, Yale Center of British Art and Tate Gallery.

Barnard and Stair have known each other for over 30 years, exhibiting together twice before, in London in 1997 and Washington, DC in 2017. With different backgrounds and artistic sensibilities, they nevertheless share a common interest in the multi-faceted language of pottery. For this exhibition of 8 jars from each artist, they are re-interpreting the millennial old tradition of funerary ware as part of their belief that pottery can challenge and mediate the inevitability of death, providing metaphorical and practical containment, and solace for what philosopher Simon Critchley called ‘the last great taboo of modern society’.

“Inner Lives” is a contributing exhibition with the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts annual conference in Richmond from March 25-28.

Special thanks to Steven Glass, and Howard Risatti

“Inner Lives” Virtual Experience

With The Branch currently closed for a few weeks, we regretted that closure would limit the number of people who could see this wonderful exhibition of ceramic design. Rob Barnard has found a virtual way to share the exhibition with our guests. We hope you will click on this link and enjoy a few moments of peace, beauty and tranquility exploring ceramic design.


“Hiding in Plain Sight: The Architecture of Charles M. Robinson”

September 23, 2019 – February 28, 2020

Image Courtesy of JMU Special Collections

Exploring the life and works of one of Virginia’s most prolific architects. The exhibit will feature architectural renderings, photographs, and ephemera pertaining to the life and works of the architect Charles M. Robinson, whose career spanned from 1889 to 1932.

The Branch Exhibitions Committee Chair
Sally Brown
for shepherding this project
and Brenden Bowman, Exhibit Curator

This exhibition and associated events are made possible through the generosity of an anonymous donor.

The Branch Museum gratefully acknowledges permission for use of images, objects, and works on paper from:
Robert A. Boynton, FAIA, Principal of Boynton Rothschild Rowland Architects, PC, Richmond
Michael Farrow and the Blair County Historical Society
Library of Virginia
Simpson Library, University of Mary Washington
Ann Willis Robinson
David Bruce Robinson, CPA
Valentine Museum
Special Collections, Virginia Commonwealth University James Branch Cabell Library
Special Collections Research Center, William & Mary Libraries
Susan Custer Willis