Born and raised in New York City, Toni Ross attended Wesleyan University, where she studied ceramics and the arts, graduating with a BA in Film Studies. Her lifelong interest in visual arts then took her to Italy, where she absorbed the great traditions of the Renaissance and the Middle Ages while painting and sketching in museums, piazzas, and the countryside. Since then, her practice has evolved to include works in sculpture, drawing, and painting; her current focus on ceramics dates to 1997.
Drawn initially to wheel-thrown, functional ware, Ross created a small production line of high-fired porcelain and stoneware, as well as one-of-a-kind pieces. Ross’ growing interest in shino, a Japanese glaze first used in the Momoyama period (late 16th Century) revealed a new path. Although intended to emulate the fine white glazes of China, depending on application, thickness, humidity, and firing process, shino glaze can range from white to orange to brown or black, matte or shiny, rough or smooth. The endless possibilities of the material led to an experimental artistic process yielding surprising results.
Ross’s work is influenced by the light and ocean landscape surrounding the eastern end of Long Island, where she moved in 1988. Her recent output is predominantly coil and slab formed, high-fire stoneware. Finding power in forms both large and small, each piece is the size it “needs to be.” Often infused with vessel vernacular, Ross thinks of each work as a container; a container of time, emotions and experience. Additionally, the architectural and cubic aspects of vessels, containers, and totems have provided Ross with an evolving lexicon of visual relationships that address shape and surface, balance and instability, and elements of expressionism and transience. In newer sculptures, Ross explores tablets, stele, and pyramidal formations. Often hand-inscribed with aspects of cuneiform and the written word, each sculptural face hints at an elusive, undiscovered language. Thread binding, layering, and coupling of elements extend the narrative further, as planes of distressed stoneware coax their component parts to stand, tilt or recline.