Thursday, November 17, 2011

Artist Statement: From the Ground Up

Apparently the artist statements for this winter's clay show, From the Ground Up at Larson Gallery are due tomorrow. Here is my (illustrated) statement.

Clay seems to me to be the perfect material; it is immediate and tactile. I can create directly and modify in all dimensions. As an expressive medium, clay has always seemed to "fit." Clay gives me the freedom to squish and shape, add and remove, with my hands touching the clay I don't need to use tools to translate what I want to say. Some of this sense of freedom comes from familiarity with the medium and techniques, but even from a young age, I felt comfortable squeezing modeling clay into the shape of a person and then manipulating that human form in expressive ways.

forming a sculpture by hand
Today my ceramic work is primarily abstract and sculptural. I encourage an open interpretation of my forms. I like the viewer to become involved with the work, either by physically handling it or because I have forced them to interpret the work by leaving the subject ambiguous.

My work is inspired mostly by local and exotic plant forms and aquatic flora and fauna. The biological forms I look to for inspiration are at once familar and strange. Nature repeats similar forms in different organisms and in different ecosystems. Though I may not have seen a particular plant or seedpod before, I have seen seedpod and plant forms in general.

plant forms collected for my studio
Similarly, my work is both familiar and strange. Out of context, the subtly or subconsciously familiar forms of my sculpture might be hard to categorize or identify. Direct inspiration for my sculptural forms or surfaces might come from seeds, blossoms or the surface of an orange. I combine these influences into new forms that are essentially abstract and non-representational.

sprig (mold) made from the surface of an orange
People have often asked if my sculptures are meant to represent human anatomy. I don't often draw inspiration from these forms, but the forms I do look at, like the soft bodies of a sea cucumber or cnidaria (like jellyfish) are subtly similar to organs we see in the human form. Biological forms, whether human, animal or plant-life, have complex structures very different from the manmade structures that surround us everyday. Often the complex structures are unfamiliar to us because they are too small or hidden from view by skin or shell or other protective layers. My intent is not for my audience to recognize the forms or surfaces I represent and explore in my work, but to recognize, consciously or subconsciously, that something about the work is familiar.

finished form with shell sprigged surface
I also hope to attract my audience to look closer or spend more time with my work. I use vivid hues and saturated layers of color that are reminiscent of tropical flowers or fish found near a coral reef. The bright, layered colors, complex textures and contrast of shiny and satin surfaces are meant to be eye-catching and appealing. Once I have drawn in my audience I hope to encourage them to question the meaning of the work or what it represents. I want them to recognize, or almost recognize, forms or surfaces they have seen before, but I want the process to be a search and I don’t necessarily need them to discover the same connections I envisioned when I created the work.

finished form with orange sprigged surface and sprayed and painted underglaze

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