Understand Fear as Modern Curiosity

As a child I was taught to always be curious, but never too curious.

Things in this great wild world we live in tend to be mysterious and beautiful, with a subduction that can draw a young child in. Especially, one like myself, who was more often than not free to roam the outdoors unaccompanied for hours on end.

Detail of new work in the studio, January 2017.

A majority of my childhood up until I started high school was spent outdoors. I remember living in Louisiana and my brother and I getting our first TV, a small heavy box of a thing with a screen about the size of a standard sheet of writing paper. It went in his room, because he had the bunkbed but we were only ever allowed to watch it after we had finished our homework and gone outside for a bit. Honestly, I think my mother just needed a break from us, but back then going outside was not as dangerous as it is today. My family lived on a military base and it was completely normal for a group of like aged kids to walk the streets until the lights came on. All the families dads and mothers probably worked together on base in some way, and it was customary for parents to feed each others kids snacks in a kind of unspoken agreed upon rotation. Today that would never happen. I remember there being some houses that I was told not go inside of, even though I was friends with the kid that lived there, but these were just rules I followed. The woods were a different story. Rules did not apply the same way they did while in the neighborhood. It was all up to me to keep myself safe, aware, and alive. It may sound a bit of a exaggeration, but some of the things I did as a a child should and very well could have killed me. Jumping off the water tower with a rope around my waist, climbing into the sewer during a thunder storm, shooting bottle rockets at other kids in a game of war---the list goes on and on.


What I am getting at here is that "sense of curiosity" and what it does for an artist. In the woods, particularly in Louisiana, Alabama, and Georgia---there are plenty of beautiful, colorful, and eye catching things in nature that can hurt you and still be so interesting. My professor Jeff explained to me that in my work there has still got to be some hope, something that gives the viewer a sense of curiosity and most importantly hope. Snakes, spiders, and four legged things are not the things that give people hope and are the more obvious ones people list off when they talk about dangerous creature sin the woods; which is why I was always interested in the smaller more unassuming plants and critters that were around me. Bugs, mushrooms, creepy crawlies, ivies, fungi, and what lived in the ground where smaller than me so I guess I was more curious than afraid. These things were just as dangerous as the larger counterparts but without fail I collected them in glass jars like the old Victorian glass terrariums seen below, and brought them home. Only to then get scolded by my mother for bringing them in the house. But I loved them. Loved them to the point where I'd create tiny habitats for the critters I captured, only to have them die after a week or two of captivity despite my best efforts.

It's been a good long while since I was out in the woods just to explore though. Something changed mentally and that curiosity I used to have shifted. The fear I lacked as a child only grows the older I get and something about going out in the woods alone as an adult is extremely terrifying and at the same time oddly appealing. But I believe the fear itself has transformed too, because its not that I am scared of whats out there, it's just that I know. I am more educated, and more prone to overthink situations rather than just take them at face value like I did as a kid. That idea of dropping everything and walking into the woods- it's the pioneers dream and probably most cubicle working adults.


I feel my work in the studio lately has the same love that I had for the tiny critters in the jars I collected as a child. I've gone back and researched images of things that are common in the woods where I grew up and the pieces I am developing scream "natures bounty." They reference Bernard Palissy, whom I've mentioned in previous blog posts but they also have new influences such as Mister Finch, a textile artist in the UK. I've seen his work before, in passing while trolling through Pinterest, but it was not until I came upon his series from 2014 called Specimen, where combined various clashing nature forms that I really took interest. He explains the work in this collection as:

Here’s a new collection of my latest work. I wanted to create specimens that look like they have been collected from somewhere else... wherever that may be.... Ive mixed wings with fungus and plants with foxes....spiders with feathers and a bird with translucent plastic fins underneath its plumage and over sized feather collar.
— Mister Finch

I related to this because my most recent work has been combining what I find in nature as well as what i find in the domestic space, and creating new works from that combination. But when I went hunting form more artists who use the theme of domestic spaces with nature in their work artist Giselle Hicks came to light. Her work from 2013, where she created floral arrangements on the wall influenced my work with a few floral additions into my sculptures. Turns out she too went to Alfred for her MFA in 2010-which is apparently where all the great clay people come from! She has taken part in various artist-in-residence programs including the Anderson Ranch Art Center, the Arts/Industry Program at the Kohler Company, The Clay Studio in Philadelphia (where I believe a former student here at GSU now works, Lois Harvey), The Greenwich House Pottery and The Archie Bray Foundation. Her resume is also quite extensive and has given me multiple opportunities to now look into. Most importantly however is her view on the pieces shown nelow, where she describes the domestic space as:

This work investigates the sites within a domestic space that are routinely and ritually inhabited, particularly the bed/bedroom and table/dining room. For me, the bed and table personify human relationships. Their design and function determines our proximity to one another affecting our actions and interactions. I imagine their surfaces as absorbent, retaining traces of our presence and our histories. This work is an abstraction of the expansive and complex life experiences that take place across surfaces of these sights within the home
— Giselle Hicks

As for my personal studio work this week, I have really worked hard for my first critique of the semester which is Monday and Tuesday of this week. I have two pieces complete and ready to show in addition to three smaller pieces that accompany the larger two. I had a third, but it collapsed under the weight of the materials I was adding to it, despite me efforts to keep it upright. Lesson learned...and learned hard. But thats ok-because it's body parts can now be used to build something else.

Nothing is ever a waste in clay-it can always be remade and reused.

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