In designing Wizard of Oz Jar in earthenware clay, Starr combined traditional creative methods with whimsical popular culture. The large jar features the four main principal characters from the much loved L. Frank Baum book and film that chronicles the adventures of a young farm girl named Dorothy Gale in the magical Land of Oz after she and her pet dog Toto are swept away from their home in Kansas by a cyclone. In this work, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion join the Wicked Witch on the legendary Yellow Brick Road.
Starr depicted Dorothy wearing a blue and white-checkered pinafore dress with short sleeves and banded collar. Beautiful blue bows hold her long brown hair in braids and she wears her iconic ruby red slippers. In ever-faithful devotion, Toto scampers near her feet. Tin Man holds Dorothy’s left hand and lifts an ax in the air with his right. His metallic body perfectly crafted by Starr is replete with bow tie, funnel cap and red heart. Cowardly Lion dances next to Tin Man. Lips pursed and arms raised, he appears to courageously roar as he cavorts down the Yellow Brick Road. Dressed in patched mismatched clothing held up with rope, Scarecrow dances with Dorothy’s right arm tucked in the crook of his left arm. He holds a burlap bag and sports a black crow perched on his shoulder. He faces the Wicked Witch of the West. The green Witch wearing black dress, cape, hat and boots, rides her broom toward the tenacious travelers to deter them from reaching the Emerald City. The Emerald City gloriously glints in shades of green and blue just beyond the Witch. At the end of the long and winding Yellow Brick Road, the viewer can see the highly venerated Wizard.
Starr captures the moment in the story after the principal characters have obtained the things they have wished for but before the Wicked Witch has dissolved in water. In the meantime, Dorothy’s farmhouse sits perilously perched atop the jar’s lid, carried ever upward in the clutches of the twisting tornado. Wizard of Oz jar rotates on display to mimic the twists and turns a tornado takes when warm, humid air collides with cold, dry air.
Starr specializes in the nearly lost art of slipware in which ceramic pieces are decorated using clay that is applied and modeled in liquid form, called “slip.” An ancient technique, slipware was widely used through the early 18th century before the introduction of enamels.
Wizard of Oz Jar was donated in 2017 by the Starr family to be presented as a gift to the Kansas City Public Library.