Critique

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.

Studio Visit Overload

When you have the opportunity to sign up for a studio visit from the visiting artist, lecturer, gallery director, or whatever important person happens to be on campus that day, you take it.  It's usually a problem to get a time slot in to speak to them so when I know there is a visit opportunity coming around I keep my phone on hand so that as soon as the email goes out I can sign up for a time slot.

This week was full of people, to include Jason Sweet from Atlanta, Nancy Bookhart who is a friend of my Professors, and Leonie Bradbury a gallery director in Boston.  I feel like this past month has been so packed with studio visits they are starting to run together in my head.  Luckily I keep track of them in my notebook which helps me to look back on the things we discussed.  I received some very enlightening feedback from Jason Sweet, who happens to be the instructor to one of my friends from undergrad.  He told me that my work represented landscapes of a home environment and that the new direction I was taking in my most recent work reflected those same thoughts, except it added the emotion of anger and rage.  I think he only said that because I gauged out the eyeballs of a stuffed teddybear, but I did it so I could put them back in at a later point in time.  I know that sounds awful, but I couldn't run his entire body through the kiln, eyes intact.

Leonie Bradbury shared a number of her secrets about running a gallery, and how to create call for entries and sending out prospectus opportunities to artists.  Later in June I will be curating a show at Augusta University with my friend Jessamy, completely by ourselves.  So we wanted to do a little research in the mind of someones who's been doing it for years...which is basically all we talked to Leonie about.  She is a curator of contemporary art and currently works as the Director and Curator of the Galleries at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, MA. She is also the co-founder of "Alter Projects" an independent curatorial collaborative that designs custom arts programming.  She came to visit us because she is in the same Ph.D. program as my Professor in Philosophy and Art Theory at the Institute for Doctoral Studies in Visual Art.

Also this week I will be completing my project from my third research symposium.  I made 240 test tiles with my undergraduate copartner and this week we will be glazing the tiles for our final project.  I have not seen any new art work outside of whats been happening in the Center for Art and Theater, the BFA Juried Art Show and the Form and Content show.  Which might I say were both amazing.  The awards ceremony which was held just this past Friday night was packed out with students, faculty, and family members.  I was awarded the Roxie Scholarship and acknowledged along with a number of other students!  The semester is winding down and things are getting tight on the calendar.  I have a lot to get done and only a little time to do it, so I'm headed back to the studio to work on pieces for the next critique, the ENOP Bird for Howard Lumber, two papers, and a revised artist statement.  Noting too crazy.....yet.

Realizing a Critique is Around the Corner

Nothing puts a little pep in your step like realizing your first big critique is just two days away and you technically haven't "mounted" or "finished" any of your pieces...

[Insert mind exploding rambling and crying in the corner]

But all of the stressing and freaking out about what to do for critique is ok, and well worth it because I have found over time I work best under pressure; as long as that pressure isn't skull crushing.  Amongst the chaos that is my life in grad school, I have none the less had quite a productive and enlightening week.  I found out on Tuesday that I was accepted into the 3 day, all expenses paid Conference Liaison Program at the British Commonwealth Postcolonial Studies Conference in Savannah, GA.  I am pretty excited about that seeing as it's the second conference I will be putting under my belt.  I'm also currently working towards submitting a proposal pertaining to ceramic glazes for the Research Symposium coming up in a month.

Thursday the Atlanta based artist Megan Mosholder did a visiting artist lecture about her string based installations as well as discussing her many successes in traveling, residencies, and grant writing.  It was nice to get to talk to her one on one finally, after having the opportunity to meet her via Web Chat last semester in my Theory and Criticism class.  Prior to her lecture she visited my studio to talk about what most graduate students want to talk about...how much their professors hate their work.  Ok, that isn't all we talked about but it was something that I brought up in terms of my reasonings for transitioning to ceramics from plastics.  She told me I needed to read The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, and that any questions I had needed to be directed to my Theory and Criticism Professor and her old SCAD Professor, Jason Hoelscher.  I have to admit I am kind of worried about reading it because she wouldn't tell me what it was about other than it involved space and the body.  We'll see how that goes later on.

Friday I busted my butt to submit a joint proposal with my colleague Jessamy for the Eagle Nation on Parade project.  It might sound weird for a sculptor who hates to paint, to want to paint a 6foot tall plexiglass bird, but it all counts towards being active participant in the art community.  Not to mention there is a prize involved and who doesn't need a little financial aid every now and then.  I am hoping that we win the proposal, but at the same time that is just adding one more thing to my plate.

As for what artist I found this week while searching for the reasons why I make the things I make, I came across the Swedish ceramic artists Eva Hild.  If the name isn't familiar, then the work surely is.  I have seen her pieces everywhere, in magazines, in books, and I'm pretty sure I've seen it in a gallery in person.  I am attracted to more than just the visual qualities of her work, but to how she writes about the objects she creates.  Currently she has a solo exhibition going on in Stockholm, Sweden at the Galleri Andersson Sandström called Sinkhole.  A snippet from her artist statement reads:

My sculptures are bodies, exposed to pressure and movements.  Delicate continuously flowing entities in thin-built clay. They reflect varying degrees of external and internal pressures, and how, as a consequence, perception of inner and outer space is changed or challenged.  My fascination is about the relationship between internal and external realities; the dualism between inside and outside, content and form, feeling and shape, impression and expression. It is a reflection of my inner landscapes of form. Everyday, I experience the tension between presence and absence. My sculptures show me the necessity of opposites; they are paradoxes. Bodies where presence and absence meet.

This non "art speak" statement is where I feel I can get the most information to help me in my own exploration of my work.  The forms she creates from ceramics and even steal aren't exactly like mine, which is fine (I don't want them to be) but the way she talks about them I can really relate to.  My work is clearly about chaos and the difference between containing the inner feelings with the outer feelings.  So when she says she experiences presence and absence, I see my ceramic pieces (featured above).  They are a present form, but completely absent of what they were originally made of.  It's definitely something to think about for when we have the roast, I mean critique on Tuesday.  I have already been told my pieces are very "body like" and the idea of containment is clearly important since they are solid masses, so seeing someone else deal with those ideas is reassuring.

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