art for everyone. every monday morning.

Patti Warashina • American B: 1940

Hammer Head C: 1987 • Porcelain 20” x 11 3/4” x 20”

“I was really (ticked) off.” (Okay, the actual quote was a bit more colorful.) But, by 1970, Patti Warashina was facing another life crisis. In full anger-mode during divorce from her first husband, Warashina created a series of “woman altars” that soothed her madness and smothered it in humor. Thank goodness she abandoned her first career path – dental hygienist. Someone might have gotten hurt.

Actually, Warashina’s entire life can be seen as an outsider expressing her frustrations and losses through razor-sharp humor and prodigious artistic talent. 

After watching her father be broken, spiritually and physically, when his assets and Spokane dental practice were frozen during WWII, she found herself at the University of Washington in 1958. “Women then went to college to get married. As an Asian, you wouldn’t even consider a sorority. It was totally Anglo … you kind of knew your place.” Instead, Warashina found herself enthralled with art after a sophomore drawing class turned her away from dental studies. But, as always, she was on the outside looking in. “I found myself spending day and night at the art school, looking through windows and getting chased out by the campus police.” 

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The perpetual misfit, Warashina was captivated by the absurd world view of Surrealists like Magritte and Bosch, rather than the rigid allegiance to shape, color and texture of the Abstract Expressionist movement sweeping the art world at the time. “I never took any figure classes at all. It wasn’t cool. I liked the ridiculousness (of the Surrealists). It’s just the way I saw the world.”

But being a square peg in a world of round holes just means you haven’t yet found a place to fit. Soon enough, west coast ceramics movements like California Funk found other artists expressing themselves with offbeat humor. Patti Warashina fit right in, in terms of worldview if not style.

Although born in America, Warashina’s art shows an Asian flare and precision. Her stories are told with oddly proportioned figures, intricate detail, and almost always with a humorous tilt. “I always have to be coming out of left field. Maybe it comes from playing with dolls while growing up and making up stories as you were playing. It’s never really left me.”

If all you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. Thank goodness Patti Warashina always has a different way of looking at things, and the talent to share her view.

Canton Museum of Art Permanent Collection • Gift of Freedman Tudor & John Cummins 87.10


4 Ways to Sound Smart When Viewing at The Canton Museum of Art

“Her outsider viewpoint was shaped early by her family’s WWII experience when all their assets were frozen because of their ethnicity.”

“She uses a wry sense of humor to express her views of everyday life through her art. Laughter soothes the savage beast.”

“Her original influences were Surrealists who shared her absurdist view of the world.”

“She was part of a west coast movement that used ceramics to create sculpture rather than functional works.”


Warashina Timeline. Scroll over images to see timeline.