Sunday, May 14, 2017

Protest Bulbs in Progress

new "protest" bulbs fresh from the kiln

Earlier this year I was invited to participate in an as-yet-unscheduled "Nasty Woman" art show. I had just installed my bulbs at Yakima Maker Space. I had recently been given some clay that looks good without glaze, and I was trying to squeeze in some studio time before the end of the academic year.

First Amendment and Family Planning bulbs

I also had bought some new tools and my daughter wanted to spend some time in the studio with me. So I started thinking about how I could make bulbs (which are fairly quick to build) be a canvas for political speech and political imagery. The ongoing idea of the bulb installation is that it is flexible and adjustable and open to interpretation. Many of the bulbs can be hung facing either way. I used to glaze them with contrasting colors on either side so that they could be rearranged and re-hung.

"Mother of All Bombs" and "Women's March"


These pieces are mostly one-sided (or one correct side), but as I was building them, I was debating between keeping the imagery open to flexible interpretation or making the message blunt and inflexible. I decided, on most, to try to include imagery that was easily recognizable and referenced specific issues that capture the political climate of the past year. I tried to choose strong graphic elements that would translate to the small scale of the bulb form.

unfired bulbs before loading

I found or developed imagery that referenced women's health, the environment, freedom of speech, healthcare, and the military. I want viewers to recognize in the imagery, issues where the Trump administration has taken actions to remove protections for regular people. I also want to reference financial inequality, systemic violence in the police force, immigration rights, and the school to prison pipeline, but I have not yet made the bulbs and am less sure of the imagery I want to use.

Resist fist after and before firing, the dark and white on the right bulb is a paper template. The slight discoloration on the left is the residue of the paper after firing.

This type of art making is decidedly not an area in which I feel comfortable. In part because of this discomfort, I have some concerns that some of the imagery that can be interpreted in more than one way. I both like and dislike this openness and the vulnerability I feel in putting this work out there. On the other hand, I don't feel comfortable being vocal and active in only my private life and not, in some way, in my professional work. 

Pill Bottle bulb after and before firing (I must have painted on slip with light clay and probably handled the wet bulb with dusty hands before firing.

I unloaded my bisque firing today. Some of the work does not look how I want it to look at this stage. I was hoping I could get away with not glazing the pieces (so I can get them in a show within a couple weeks), but I made a mistake by not mixing fresh slip using the dark red mica clay I used for the bulbs. The result is that several pieces have smears or smudges of light colored clay that distracts from the imagery.

I used too much white slip to attach the smoke and the smokestacks on this EPA bulb.

I haven't decided, yet, whether I will try to hide the smears of light slip, replace the bulbs that don't look as nice, or add bright underglazes like my usual work. (I also haven't decided how large I want the installation to be in a few weeks.) On the one hand, glazing these pieces like my usual work brings the imagery and the effect more closely in alignment with my usual abstract work. On the other hand, keeping the color palette monochromatic requires the focus to be on the imagery and, in some ways, communicates the depressing tone I intend the pieces to suggest. 

My installation at Makers' Space with abstract bulbs.

One additional issue is that the current plan is to incorporate some non-ceramic materials into some of the bulbs. Obviously if I am going to do this, I will be committing to either a glazes or unglazed, bright or dull surface. And by bringing in mixed media, I am bringing in color. 

1 comment:

  1. These are amazing. I love a work in progress!


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