August 20, 2012

Chautauqua Institution.

I just got home from a seven-week work study program at Chautauqua Institution in New York. Besides being an incredible experience, it was one of the hardest times of my art journey thus far. My two goals going into this summer were to figure out how to make my art practice more environmentally sustainable and how to build more layers of meaning into my work.
Sustainability is such an important issue in art-making and I sense an urgency in it that many other people around me have not yet found important enough to consider. So when I start making the decision to not fire my ceramic work and to instead build with raw clay as a finished material, I come across a lot of resistance from other ceramicists. I think this is mainly due to the tradition of ceramics (human beings were making things with clay 7000 years ago) and also to the fact that I was making objects that seemed unfinished -- unfired clay did not seem to be important to the content. 
But raw clay is so essential to my message; it is earth. It is a universal material. Clay can be found almost everywhere in the world and the earth is actually making more clay than we can use. That can't be said about much of anything nowadays. Of course, there are a lot of environmental problems with the mining of these minerals, but by not firing my sculptures, I am building work that will break back down into earth. I'm also saving a lot of energy that would be used to fire those kilns. I really hope to explore more ways to reduce my impact in the future.
The act of making is so intoxicating, especially at the undergrad level where you are being introduced to all of these new exciting materials and ways of working, that I have not been able to slow down enough to really analyze the 'why' in my practice until this summer.

Here is a photo of my studio where I had the opportunity to make work everyday, without all of the distractions of normal life. 
I learned that my artwork is really about a reverence for life. 
At the core of what I am thinking about, there is this need to appreciate growth, decay and a compassion for all that are at the mercy of this cycle. This compassion is the answer to most of our troubles; I truly believe this. What would the world look like if we treated everything around us with this kind of empathy? 

-"Procession", raw clay and organic materials.
 Here is a photograph of my ceramic installation at the Fowler-Kellog gallery in Chautuaqua.


  1. When I left my unfired monster out in the rain he could not sustain his shape. I expected this. You have heard of and learned all about Andy Goldsworthy, right? Take only pictures leave only little icicle sculptures.

  2. Andy is the best. I was also introduced to Shay Church's work this summer. Maybe you would like his work, too.