Tuesday, August 4, 2009

An Artistic Balancing Act Attempted Without a Net. . .

or a Reasonable Explanation of the Media Dichotomy Seen Here.

From the beginning, my focus as an artist was in two dimensional media. I studied drawing, painting and printmaking almost exclusively while in college. I loved all three and enjoyed each for what the process allowed me to express. But one semester while in graduate school, I had no classes on Fridays so I signed up for a ceramics class at the Student Union. I spent endless hours on Fridays along with mostly professors’ wives, trying to get a lumpy ball of clay centered on a kick wheel. I vividly remember the day I spent 10 hours bent over that lump, refusing to let it get the better of me. I still have the very first ‘pot’ I made on that kick wheel, a pot which has fairly even walls all the way around even though it’s only 3” tall, a real success at the time.

It was that semester in that clay class when I got hooked on working in the mud. I think partly it was because I was free of being graded, of being labeled a ‘potter’ and I could just make whatever I wanted, no outside or inside critic telling me ‘not good enough’, which kept me coming back to the clay, especially when inspiration had run its course in my two dimensional work.

At one point I began to combine my two seemingly divergent creative media by drawing on porcelain slabs. It turned out to be a very successful series of wall pieces. This is one of the few remaining - part of a larger work which met its unfortunate demise from an encounter with an unwieldy broom handle unconsciously wielded by an unobservant house cleaner (sheepishly) - me!

Then came a series of slabs evocative of my travels; large thrown and altered vessels glazed only on the inside; larger coiled vessels stained with oxides to emphasize the coil patterns; intricately carved mirror frames both glazed and drawn into - my Zanzibar Door series - and so on.

But when I think about my relationship with clay, I realize how clay affords me a place to just do ‘zen’ work. I almost always start with the pinch pot, so effortless, but so fulfilling, seeing just how thin and round I can make it before the clay says ‘enough’ and cracks or implodes in my hands. Up till the final fire, clay consistently has the last word, which is “you are not in control”, as if I have to be reminded.

Recently I became aware that the clay work I’ve done over the years and especially the work just recently finished is all part of a continuum. Just as my two dimensional series have always reflected my own personal story, so too has my work in clay – now torn, altered, carved and delicately balanced - which I can say truly reflect my life as a vessel. More on this theme later.

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