I create in clay because I enjoy the medium. I like the challenge of stretching clay’s identity as a contemporary three-dimensional material while preserving parts of its rich historical tradition. The “vase”, one of ceramic’s most iconic clay forms, appears three times in this exhibition -- once as a three-dimensional pedestal piece, again as a disassembled/reassembled wall assemblage and finally a as fractured/flattened mosaic -- each a caricature of a formal functioning vase.
Combining multiple pieces in collage fashion remains a favorite way of working. After creating numerous and varied volumetric forms, a playful exploratory process of sorting, adding, shifting and deleting elements takes place. A single piece may consist of a dozen parts and change shape many times before a successful visual relationship takes place. The multitude of individual objects comprising “Milagros Modernos” were rearranged, discarded, re-introduced and altered many times over a period of three months. The same collage-like exchange of mosaic pieces occurred daily with “Big Red” and its over 200 tesserae.
While my construction methods have expanded over time, the use of low-fire clay slabs pressed into a variety of molds remains at the center of the building process. These molds range from interestingly shaped light fixtures to ugly plastic poolside martini glasses to wooden molds used to make parts for nuclear submarines. Once constructed the pieces are hand-altered – twisted, carved, cut apart and reassembled – releasing the shapes from the constraints of the original molds.
Some pieces become animated and take on references to figures and events. When placed in a row, the large bottles become a group of gossiping “Gadabouts” or “Critics”. Similarly, the conical shapes of “When the Circus Comes to Town” resemble a rehearsal of not-so-proficient carnival performers and a vertical stack of teetering forms imbues the playfulness of a “Class Clown”.
A strong surface vocabulary is important. The “skin” of each piece is consciously considered from inception with layered glazes and multiple firings creating depth of color and textured surfaces. Because glazes do not always achieve the desired outcome, “cold finishes” of graphite, ink, paint, color pencil, pigmented wax and decal transfers are often applied. A number of works in this show employ a combination of traditional glazing and cold finishes; the best examples being “Milagros Modernos” and “Bonbons”.
Not just a touch, but a blast of color returns in this exhibition. “Parrot Parade”, completed first, inspired other vibrant hues, as in the vase variation series, “Big Red”, “Panache”, and “Sunrise”. Thinking once again in color was both daunting and rewarding.
The notion of raw materials and their transformation into new manifestations is exciting — the intersection of what is known and of what is possible. With clay the possibilities seem endless and ever challenging.
CRAIGHEAD GREEN GALLERY
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