"Jar with Lid" by Dick Roepke.

"Jar with Lid" by Dick Roepke. (Submitted photo / November 23, 2012)

You can make a case that the vases in "Triple Vision" are meant to be admired as much as used. The three artists showcased in this Columbia Art Center exhibit make vases, platters and other ceramic objects that often have whimsical shapes or surface decoration.

Although Pam Hannasch and Dick Roepke generally make functional pieces, they also have playful tendencies. As for Scott McNabb, well, his nonfunctional ceramic art can be used to generate a smile.

It's nice to walk around the gallery and see how these three distinctive artistic identities are shaped; however, some of their pieces are displayed on such low pedestals that it's rather awkward to try looking at them. Make the effort, because it's worth it.

McNabb's witty ceramic art fortunately would register at almost any height or angle. Look down at an "Alligator" and its segmented skin seems close enough in texture to the real thing that you'll be thankful that this particular gator bizarrely has been cut up into three widely spaced sections.


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Within the animal kingdom, McNabb also has a number of "Fish Plaques." These are small, irregularly edged plaques with outlined fish incised on the surface. The plaques are installed at eye-level directly on the gallery wall, so it's easy to make their acquaintance.

Other ceramic artwork by McNabb includes a "Manhole Cover" series that emulates the basic shape and patterning of the real thing, while also including allusions to mud, leaves and rain; a "Fairy Tree" series of gnarled ceramic tree trunks that look like fairies, trolls, hobbits and other supernatural critters would be at home there; a series of book-shaped ceramic sculptures including "Dictionary" and "Cook Book"; and even a "Weathered New York Times" that resembles a rolled up copy of that newspaper.

McNabb explores the sculptural possibilities of the medium in amusing ways. The other two ceramic artists also do so, but they're relatively more traditional in terms of making vases and plates. Of course, these traditional objects also lend themselves to imaginative variations.

Hannasch takes a basic vase form in "Two Feathers," for instance, and has feather-evocative ceramic shapes draped across the top of this vessel. Similarly, her "Brown Handles" has just such ceramic handles conveniently affixed to the top of another vase.

She explores surface texture in such pieces as "Crackle Platter," with its web of deliberate cracks patterning the flat surface.

"Blue Shine" and other vessels are so brightly colored that they nearly glow. And "Stripe Vase" and similar vases try out the possibilities of stripes in terms of color and width.

Roepke has plates whose flat surfaces are marked with calligraphic swirls, raku vases whose surfaces have various shades of brown melting into each other and even two wall-mounted "Mirror" pieces in which circular ceramic frames contain actual mirrors. Wherever you look, you'll see ceramics in this show.

"Triple Vision" runs through Dec. 2 at the Columbia Art Center, 6100 Foreland Garth, in Long Reach Village Center, in Columbia. Call 410-730-0075 or go to http://www.ColumbiaArtCenter.org.