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Art Museum to host Malcolm Davis exhibition

Ceramic Vessel

“From the Mountain: Malcolm Davis and the Art of Shino” will open at the Art Museum of West Virginia University on Jan. 22.

Featuring more than 70 objects on loan from private collections, this exhibition celebrates Davis’ artistic commitment to both beauty and function through a diversity of forms designed for everyday use.

Born in Virginia, Malcolm Davis earned a degree in Mathematics from the College of William and Mary in 1959, followed by a Master of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1964. As an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, Davis served as Ecumenical Campus Chaplain at George Washington University from 1967 to 1984, where he became a leader in the peace and civil rights movements of the era. He organized bus caravans and sit-ins, led voter registration drives, and in 1968 helped organize the Poor People’s Campaign and its accompanying Resurrection City in Washington, D.C.  

But it wasn’t until Davis discovered his great love and affinity for creating ceramic vessels that he felt he found his calling. In 1985, Davis established his mountaintop studio near Tallmansville, West Virginia where he created his finest work when not traveling across the United States, Canada and Europe, teaching workshops and sharing his unique glaze. 

Malcolm Davis portrait in black and white

While in residence at Baltimore Clayworks, Mr. Davis began experimenting with Shino, a Japanese style glaze. Over the years, he perfected his technique and recipe, creating pottery that did not have the customary milky-white glaze of Shino, and instead boasted a variety of red, salmon, orange and black carbon trapped color and drama on every piece.

“Malcolm’s Shino” was a ground-breaking development in Shino’s 16th century origination. True to his generous nature, Mr. Davis released it to the world, rather than keeping the recipe for himself. It is now used in clay studios throughout the United States and Europe.

“People said Malcolm was larger than life,” said Judith Davis, Malcolm’s partner and wife of 50 years. “He loved teaching and people and traveling. He was curious, generous and one of the most important ceramic artists ever to reside in West Virginia during the late 20th and early 21st Centuries — and a major contributor to the international ceramic world.”

orange and black ceramic vessel

WVU is also home to The Malcolm Davis Living Legacy Fund for Ceramics, which supports a graduate assistantship to study the work of Mr. Davis, test and catalog glaze recipes, prepare online resources, and publish a Retrospective Tribute to Malcolm Davis.

“There is no better place than the Art Museum to celebrate Malcolm Davis,” said Museum Director Todd J. Tubutis. “Given the stature of WVU’s ceramics program and Davis’ deep connection to the state, we are proud to present the work of this influential, internationally recognized ceramic artist to our audiences this spring.”

“From the Mountain: Malcolm Davis and the Art of Shino” will run Jan. 22 - May 15 in the McGee Gallery. The Art Museum of WVU is open Thursday through Sunday from 12:30 to 6:00 p.m. Admission is always free. For more information on the museum, visit

The museum follows all COVID-19 safety protocols set by WVU for all of its campuses. Please visit for current information.