Jane Irish’s poem pots at Locks gallery

We’ve told you about Jane Irish’s ceramic vases before (see posts here and here). Now on view at ICA in Dirt on Delight and recently at Locks Gallery, Irish’s pots, with their beautiful designs and colorful paintings embellishing their chunky and earth-bound selves are both beauty and the beast. The beast is the words — poetry — commissioned by Irish or conscripted by her for her subject, that appear on the pots. Angry or questioning, the poems reveal the legacy of the Vietnam War and they feel just right for our equally conflicted feelings about the Iraq war.

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Jane Irish’s vase with the poem of Vietnam Veteran Against the War activist W. D. Ehrhart’s on its side.

Somehow I missed that Irish, organizer of the Massive Operation Raw art project a few years back, had visited Vietnam last summer and that the images on some of the pots reflected the plein air paintings she had made during her month-long journey.


The pots are achingly lovely. Their complications make them all the more compelling. Pretty and angry; accusatory and celebratory, they are not simple eye candy. And the poems — especially those by the Veterans, are the most poignant and visceral, their imagery like a punch in the gut. My favorite is W. D. Ehrhart‘s Souvenirs which captures the the Vietnam experience completely, the beauty and wonder of the culture and people and the horror and brutality of the war.

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Scene from Vietnam on this pot, based on plein air paintings by Irish done in Vietnam last summer.

W.D. Ehrhart


“Bring me back a souvenir,” the captain called.
“Sure thing,” I shouted back above the amtrac’s roar.

Later that day,
the column halted,
we found a Buddhist temple by the trail.
Combing through a nearby wood,
we found a heavy log as well.

It must have taken more than half an hour,
but at last we battered in
the concrete walls so badly
that the roof collapsed.


Before it did,
I took two painted vases
Buddhists use for burning incense.

One vase I kept,
and one I offered proudly to the captain.