In painting Cracked, artist John Slaby's take on the spirituality of imperfection was inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote, "There is a crack in everything God has made." It is this lack of perfection that makes us human.
In painting Cracked, artist John Slaby's take on the spirituality of imperfection was inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson's quote, "There is a crack in everything God has made." It is this lack of perfection that makes us human.
Photo courtesy of the artist and Archway Gallery

Houston Artists Serving Up Artsy But Empty Bowls to Fight Hunger

Houston artist John Slaby always adds a touch of surrealism to his photorealistic oil paintings, finding creative ways to explore religion, metaphysics and the human condition. For his contribution to Archway Gallery's upcoming Empty Bowls Invitational Exhibition, Slaby painted a vessel that's cracked and broken but that also suggests a glimmer of hope in the sliver of light shining from within.

True, Slaby's piece isn't technically a bowl — it can't hold anything but the viewer's eye — but it represents the looser reins placed on the stable of Archway artists and visiting contributors for this invitational and silent auction. The Archway event runs in tandem with the strictly three-dimensional Empty Bowls Houston over at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, though don't expect any lack of creativity or imagination in this perennial favorite that benefits the Houston Food Bank.

Thomas Irven created this Pour Bowl out of ebony and maple burl, turning the piece then cutting it in half and gluing both halves back together with their lids to form an oblong bowl before finishing it with a spout.
Thomas Irven created this Pour Bowl out of ebony and maple burl, turning the piece then cutting it in half and gluing both halves back together with their lids to form an oblong bowl before finishing it with a spout.
Photo courtesy of the artist and Archway Gallery

Thomas Irven, a resident artist at Archway Gallery who has been coordinating the invitational, says the only criteria he gave artists was that their piece relate to a bowl or food. "Usually it works. There's always a few where their work doesn't have anything to do with bowls or food but that's OK, as long as they sell and make some money for the food bank," says Irven. Fellow resident artist Cecilia Villanueva has stayed true to her love of cobalt blue (architectural ink seemingly runs through her veins) but has incorporated tea bags in her England-inspired piece.

We'll get a chance to check out these showy pieces from 30 participating artists — made from clay, wood, glass and fiber — during the silent auction opening reception on May 5.

Vorakit Chinookoswong, known widely as V. Chin and famous for his signature clay frogs, collaborated with Loes Berenschot to create this porcelain orange bowl, on view at Archway Gallery's Empty Bowls Invitational Exhibition.
Vorakit Chinookoswong, known widely as V. Chin and famous for his signature clay frogs, collaborated with Loes Berenschot to create this porcelain orange bowl, on view at Archway Gallery's Empty Bowls Invitational Exhibition.
Photo courtesy of the artists and Archway Gallery

Collectors can bid on the objects — some will remain on view at Archway Gallery while others will move to HCCC — through an online bidding program set up by the Houston Food Bank. Avid bidders will be pinged every time they're outbid so it's hoped that more money will be raised for this local organization that feeds 800,000 individuals each year through its network of 600 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and relief charities.

Pencil in the date now for the exclusive Empty Bowls Houston Preview Party at HCCC on May 18. It's first crack at hundreds of masterpieces created by Houston area ceramists and craft artists, some great people watching, and just a fun night of mixing and mingling with light bites, beer, wine and artist demos. Or, if crowds aren't your thing, come back during the day on May 19 and purchase a bowl (minimum $25 donation), check out the pottery and woodturning demonstrations, and enjoy a simple lunch of soup and bread prepared by the Houston Food Bank's Keegan Kitchen.

The Empty Bowls Invitational Exhibition and Silent Auction kicks off May 5 with an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m.. The exhibition remains up through May 30 at 6 p.m., open Mondays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m., Archway Gallery, 2305 Dunlavy, 713-522-2409, archwaygallery.com, free.

14th Annual Empty Bowls Houston Preview Party is May 18 from 6 to 8 p.m., $50 to attend with a minimum donation of $25 to purchase a bowl. Empty Bowls Houston continues May 19 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., minimum donation of $25. Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main, 713-529-4848, crafthouston.org/events.

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