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Cuellar’s global art took shape on the Hilltop

  McWethy Hall  

The Midwest has nurtured numerous internationally known potters, including Guillermo Cuellar ’76, a native of Venezuela who found his calling in Mount Vernon.

Cuellar graduated with majors in art, geology, and French. Since 1986, he has operated a studio in Turgua, Venezuela, where he lives with his wife, Laurie MacGregor ’74, and their children, Travis and Alana.

February he returned to Cornell for a closing reception of the exhibition “Guillermo Cuellar: Influences and Recent Work” in the Peter Paul Luce Gallery at McWethy Hall. The exhibit included work by Warren MacKenzie of Stillwater, Minn., and Clary Illian of Ely, Iowa, both of whom joined Cuellar for a panel discussion at the closing event. MacKenzie, who studied at the Art Institute of Chicago in the late 1940s, is considered one of America’s greatest living functional potters. Illian has taught across the United States and has working collections around the globe. MacKenzie and Illian, both former students of famed English ceramist Bernard Leach (whose work also was represented in the exhibit), met Cuellar more than 20 years ago at workshops in Caracas, Venezuela.

Guillermo was one of the beginning potters in a huge crop of students that became very good,” said art professor Doug Hanson. “When he stepped off the plane upon his return to Venezuela, he was the expert in pottery. His work is really influenced by the ‘mingei’ tradition of Japanese folk art. His pottery is functional but decorative.”

Cuellar has organized more than 20 shows in the past 12 years at his studio. He has shown his work in numerous venues including the Venezuelan National Art Gallery, the Northern Clay Center in Minnesota, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico, the Smithsonian Institution, and private galleries in the United States, England, Venezuela, and Chile. In addition to his life as a potter, Cuellar leads wilderness trips in Venezuela, Patagonia, and Tierra del Fuego.

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