Sunday, May 29, 2011

" I know its over"-songs of unrequited love comp

Friday, October 1, 2010

This is the end

Umida Ahmedova

Well this is my final semester at KCAI and for my final project I am confronting the end of clay, culture,art and objects. How's that for an ending? I am planning an installation that will further deal with the issues of old world vs new..modernism vs primal...all spoken about in a post-modern way. I am honestly not quite sure where all my ideas are heading and really when you get this lost in concept and theory you really sorta back yourself into a corner..shoot yourself in the foot so to speak. In reality my hands are still in the materials. I am seduced by the starkness of the bone china i am working with. The earthy messiness of the terra cotta. So the vision I have created in my head for this installation was further fed by these photos taken by Uzbek artist Umida Ahmedova. These photos are very similar to the photos I have been obsessively taking in Eastern Europe of the powerful babushkas. To me they are the ultimate symbol of the best things of the old world that should be cherished most but have become all the things least cherished and respected in modern society. So they are my token figures from a past way of living that are here in modern times. They could tell us so much but we don't tend to ask...and really it isn't there responsibility to teach us. We destroyed this world why should they have to heal us in return. Now there world is almost gone and they are left dealing with ours. But all of this is just a speck in time and in the end who knows which culture will predominate. Every civilization eventually passes and in the end we have layers upon layers of things we dig up and have to try and make sense of. Who came first? Who destroyed who? who was more powerful? All of this becomes a confusing and ambiguous mystery when dealing with archaeology and anthropology. Clay has played such a huge role in this. So I am interested in exploring all of this through the symbolic image of a burial mound and praying grievers.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

a tribute to Eva, elephants and serendipity

this week check out my post on the KCAI's main blog page at

here is me with Eva Zeisel


that's me on that elephant (age 4?)!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

go figure...

Kicki Masthem

Kate MacDowell

Roxanne Jackson

I thought it's high time I mention these three amazing figure sculptors. I was exposed to all three while learning ceramics at Portland Community College in Portland, OR. Back then I was dedicated to function and the work these ladies were making (though admired) belonged to a different planet. Kicki taught me my first clay and the figure class with a lot of grueling anatomy studies and working from live models. Roxanne showed up and taught classes by the time I was heading out but still made an impression. It was clear that she inspired her students to make conceptual sculptural work and dazzled everyone with what she could make low-fire glazes do. Kate was a fellow student who worked long late hours in the lab with me. Her imaginative and elaborate narratives woke me up to how much one can say through sculpture. Her work from the get go was magical and exciting. Since then Kate's work has only grown and she has gone on to have a very successful career in clay as a figure sculptor. At the time I met these ladies I had no idea that I would attempt to follow in their footsteps. Now I am thankful to have been exposed to such great role models. They have been an inspiration not only in the quality and creativity of the work they create but also in the way they have established themselves in the ceramics art world. Being exposed to the work and lives of Kicki, Roxanne, and Kate planted a seed of the great expanse of possibilities...which still helps to encourage me now.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

our hands embracing technology

Someone (!?!?) hates Bernard Leach

Garth Johnson-computer graphics on tradish euro porc forms

Janet Deboos-factory made "hand thrown" ceramic pots

Hooray!! Harmony has finally re-emerged from her inner retreat back to eastern European medieval village life and has reentered the modern world of which she inhabits. So I have just returned from NCECA in Philadelphia and thought I would write about the people/work that I met there and found inspiring. I enjoyed these three artists because they were all playing around within the philosophical battle (that I have also been waging inside my own head) about the notions and traditions of the handmade within ceramics vs technology. All of these people seemed to have a deep love for tradition but a hip open mindedness towards technology, embracing the now and using these advances to do new creative projects that put a challenge towards the old guard. Garth gave a great lecture about the D.I.Y. punk craftivism movement. Many people view making things by hand a political act itself in these days of the mass consumption of the factories over-production of soulless junk. In his own work Garth uses technology to create computer graphic collages with political undertones that he slaps onto historical porcelain forms made of the finest porcelain, luster and decals. Reality at this point is so contradictory so why not just throw it all into the mix...we are free to do and say whatever we what if it hardly makes any sense! Janet Deboos is working first hand with factories in China to mass produce her hand thrown ceramics. This isn't just about creating a's a highly conceptual experiment. Does it matter if her work was made by hand if it looks like it was? Can one tell the difference?Are our preferences ruled by something deep within or is it totally due to whats fashionably in taste, norms and expectations that are created within a particular cultural bias? Janet is out there questioning all of this and putting it into visible tangible experiments. She also pointed out that things made in a Chinese factory ARE made by hand...many hardworking hands with names and faces we tend to forget about over here with all the shelves of finished products. The third artist I was inspired by is actually a mystery. I spotted their cup at the NCECA annual cup sale show. I didn't have my camera with me and when I returned later the cup had sold. It was clever though. I nice chunky shino glazed tea bowl with a slick decal that said "I hate Leach" with a decal bar code below. Hand made or mass produced these times are inspiring ceramic artists to crank out lots of cynical,clever, beautiful work. It's at once exciting and almost too heavy at times. I managed to catch bits and pieces of a number of NCECA lectures and one lecture addressing the challenges that Ceramics is facing today finished the lecture with the statement "some of the most beautiful art throughout history has been tombstones". ouch. Are we all just celebrating the end of clay?
"If this is the end I want to go out dancing"...says the mass produced leach teabowl sitting on a boutique shelf in soho.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

books to laugh and cry by

Jonathan Safran Foer's Everyting is Illuminated

Milan Kundera's The Joke

Matt Groening's Life in Hell

Well it is clear I have been on the subject of post-communist Eastern Europe, Politics, cultural uncertainty, and the beauty that can be found within sadness. Humor is so important...though it may be dark. That's why as I lay in bed feeling crushed because I have just finished yet another Milan Kundera novel "the joke"...I break out my old Matt Groening "Life is hell" comic book. The world is absurd. Always decaying further and further in that dirrection. There is such tenderness in how flawed and fragile we all are. That these authors have managed to capture this to me is the greatest gift that one can expect to offer humanity. I'm so thankfull for books...particularily these ones.

Friday, March 5, 2010

clever people make creepy people

Clayton Bailey

Justin Novak

Misty Gamble

Well what else can you say about figures that say so much. Is there such thing as going too far? Clayton Bailey himself said he doesn't like to look at his "murder victim" figure... the critics said 'God has turned his face away from Clayton Bailey'. Wow, what a review, he got Gods attention?! But there it had to be needed to be said. In a society were everything is kept so pent up, laying things right out on the table , is cathartic...and controversial. Under the guise of silliness these playful figures are able to address the complex and disturbing mutations of human civilization. heavy stuff. You can write a novel or instead capture a thousand words with a picture...or even better, bring an image into concrete reality through sculpture. The best thing about figure sculpture for me is that you can literally make "people" do whatever you want. So why not capture the absurd fleeting moments and emotions that no one else is supposed to see?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The sacred made real

Probably the most exposure I have had to figure sculpture has been in the form of religious statues made to grace churches. I am most drawn to figures that were created in The Baroque or Byzantine eras usually of wood that are now very weathered. There is something about the deep rich hues made subtle through time that seems to heighten the drama and the mystery. These figures are at once elegant and rustic. Powerful and fragile. They are abstracted, simplified down to the bare essentials of what is needed but also decorative. These is emotion and tenderness.

humble old ladies

I have a somewhat obsessive collection of photographs I've taken in my travels of humble old post-communist ladies. I have decided to let these ladies inform my latest round of figurative sculptures. There is something so kind, innocent and genuine in these womens' faces. They have been through so much political turmoil and change but do not come across as downtrodden. They appear confident and unashamed. Proud and knowing. Taking these photos I feel a tinge invasive but the look on their faces so clearly say "recognize me, I exist, I have made it this far". So I do my best to capture and preserve with dignity and truth these ladies. Now I am attempting to capture the spirit of some of these ladies in my figurative sculpture. Will this translate well into the medium of clay figures? That's the challenge.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Making a point with Prints on Clay

Grayson Perry

Stephen Dixon

Paul Scott

These European Ceramic artists all use processes of printmaking and decals on traditional ceramic forms in order to speak directly to the history of European decorative ceramics. I think there is something grounded and readable about using these very traditional functional forms that can act as blank canvases for the layers of detailed information. The imagery and surface is beautiful in itself but on closer observation there is political content. I appreciate the layering and collage aspects that reference printmaking. There is something of an element of recycling what we already know so well...using found objects and imagery to create a social dialog about what we are over saturated with.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bad Ass Eastern European Ceramic Designers

Marek Cecula-Poland

Eva Zeisel-Hungary

Maxim Velcovsky-Czech Republic

Leave it to those raised under Communism to grow up and become the best Ceramic industrial designers on the planet! These designers/artists have all been revolutionary in their thought provoking designs. Through clever and creative conceptual approach these designers have managed to turn mass produced products into art with a political undertone. Zeisel "the mother of modern design" has managed to prove that you can create objects for daily use that have soul. She has managed to somehow counteract the coldness/masculinity of industry with her fluid, curvy anamorphic designs. Cecula speaks directly to this coldness so much so as to make a political point. Velcovsky is brilliant in his humorous critique of products and culture. All three are clearly genious visionaries always one step ahead of everyone else...always pushing ceramics just a little bit further into the future because they seem to have a grasp on those aspects that are timeless.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

creating another world

Arthur Gonzalez

Viola Frey

Gerit Grimm

These contemporary Ceramic sculptors all inspire me for their ability to create figures that reside in a world totally of their own imagination. It's not easy to speak in ones own gives substance to the visions and the dreams you have. To capture the emotion of a moment or a place. Human and idealistic. The colors of Grimm and Frey are cheerful but there is also a sassyness. Parody, social satire, dark humor. they use multiple figures and clay made props to put you inside of this world. The rough and loose style of all these artists to me conveys much more emotion and individual expression than had these been sculpted in a tight and anatomically correct way.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Wacky people make wonky pots

Beatrice Wood
George Ohr
Peter Voulkos

These potters are all very famous for their crazy personalities and their wonky, full of life and character pots.  There seems to be a fearlessness, sense of freedom and play.  They are obviously not afraid to try new things and not hung up on straight lines or overly clean edges.  Fresh and humble they capture the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic.  

Monday, November 9, 2009

behold the Byzantine icons

Byzantine Icon Painting
Byzantine Icon Painting

Painted Monastery in Romania

I have always been drawn to the elaborate and ornate art that flourishes in old churches. I was not raised going to church so I enter every church as a detached visitor not caught up in the religious part and just there to take in the art. I pretty much enter every temple, monastery or grand cathedral I come across. To me it makes no difference if it is catholic, Muslim, Buddhist or Hindu-all have something for me to behold. My favorite though is Eastern Orthodox Byzantine icons. I am drawn to the rich worn away colors of red, green and blue with bold black outlines set off with luscious gold, velvet, gems...its all at once decadent and humble. The figures are very two dimensional and otherworldly. Everything is usually very crowded and overly expressive and emotional. I am also drawn to the architectural frames of the icon paintings. Two summers ago I was able to visit many of the famous painted monasteries in Romania and see all of this first hand.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Eastern European folk costumes

Polish folk costumes

Hungarian folk costumes

Romanian Folk costumes

It is true. I am obsessed with Eastern European folk culture. I've always been drawn to it as a pattern motif and now that I have actually been to villages and seen this stuff up close I'm even more hooked. I am particularly fond of the traditional folk costumes. It's the bold colors, the millions of layers and the utterly, overwhelming cramming of patterns into space that I enjoy. These patterns smack you in the face with an enthusiastic hooray. Like the loud pop of an opening champagne bottle, fireworks, a meadow in full bloom, or the crescendo of a song. These outfits speak to merriment and joy from a time and place where this was still a priority. In the face of poverty and struggle the spirit summons a refusal to be resigned and lashes back with bright bold colors. You see this again and again in lower-class populations all over the world. For this reason I like to surround myself with these fabrics and I find there colors and patterns creeping into my artwork as well.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Asian Ceramics

Chinese Yixing Teapot

Korean Celadon teapot

Japanese Woodfired pot

One of the early things that seduced me into the realm of clay was coming across Asian ceramics piled up in the stores of the busy markets of big city china towns. I have always loved the rough and gestural look of Japanese woodfired ceramics, the deep water celadon glazes and elegant forms perfected in Korean ceramics, and the soft, natural look of Chinese Yixing teapots. Asian Ceramics have been a huge influence in both my work and my love for ceramics in general. Every time I am in an Asian market I hold the ceramics in my hand and think "how can I make this, I have to make this!" I spend a lot of time picking up already made ceramics and feeling every bit of the form...looking at the the rim and the foot..peering deeply into the glaze considering what it may be made of, how it might have been fired. Museums have also been a great place for me to take in the ceramics of Asia (both ancient and contemporary). They never let me touch them though! It has been a long time dream and goal of mine to travel to Asia just to visit the old pottery villages and kiln sites there. I want to stay up all night stoking an anagama kiln with Japanese Zen monks. I'd like to travel down the old silk route and dig up some of that yixing clay. Sit by the side of the great masters of Korea as they carve into their pots with their homemade tools. The ceramics of Asia is such a deep foundation to rest upon in the land of clay. Every time you start to doubt the medium all you have to do is look east and look back and there are multitudes of well made objects to help put that shiver back in your spine.