David Gilhooly (American, born 1943)
Frog Drum, ca. 1975
Terra cotta and snakeskin 30 1/2 in. x 8 1/4 in. (77.47 cm x 20.96 cm)
Crocker Art Museum, gift of Cherie and Ron Peterson2007.89
For ceramist David Gilhooly it’s a frog’s universe out there, never mind the humans. He began to imagine a parallel universe in which frogs were at the top of the food chain, although he began by making colorful crocodiles and other African mammals during his years as Robert Arneson’s student, in the mid-1960s. Especially in Northern California, artists of the era were fascinated with heroes, myths, and mythmaking, perhaps because they were among the first generation raised on the excess of alternative realities offered by comics and B movies.
Gilhooly used frogs in every conceivable way. Historical and political figures such as George Washington and Mao became frogs. The secret ingredient in your favorite snacks magically transformed into hot-frog dogs, frog-sundaes, and more. All of history and culture, high or low, Gilhooly was determined to illustrate as set in motion by civilizations of amphibians. Ancestors and religion were too rich to pass up, as seen here in Frog Buddha. In the seventies, when fashionable intellectuals collected artifacts from isolated and presumably primitive cultures, Gilhooly also “found” ancient frogs depicted on ritual items like this Frog Drum.
While Gilhooly’s production was prolific and well-received, today the artist’s world is rooted in other pursuits. But, sometimes, another frog star is born.