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Forming a conceptual dialogue within the anthropology and vernacular of ceramics, I create sculptures and installations that address the concepts of power and value.
These ideas, power and value, are explored as I conform to and resist the tenets specific to the ceramic artisan. I intentionally celebrate and question the necessity of craft in the context of this conceptual pursuit. High craft (a.k.a. super-craft) and low craft (a.k.a. anti-craft) simultaneously coexist challenging assumptions of taste/tendencies/biases. I question the constructs of biases and hierarchies in life that are paralleled in clay art. In the object-dominant utilitarian field of ceramics, I confront the preconceived notions and boundaries that are placed on and accepted by ceramics and art—myself included.
Ultimately, this act of confronting bias is an act in empathy. My curiosity exploring ideas related to empathy are connected to the pursuit of truth, and that is directly related to power and value. This pursuit has manifested in the research of umwelt. In the context of semiotic theories, umwelt is a German-derived term describing, “a self-centered world.” Umwelt theory states that "biological foundations that lie at the very epicenter of the study of both communication and signification in the human [and non-human] animal." (Studies in Animal Behaviour, Uexküll, Jakob von). The theory is used to define meaningful aspects significant to individuals because of unique experiences. I see the recognition of these differences as necessary elements in empathy, truth, power and value. Having awareness to differences is nearly impossible if one cannot see beyond oneself and one’s own experiences. Sadly, in the end, one cannot have the experiences of another, no matter the amount of empathy that one exerts.
The self-discovery of one’s own umwelt and one’s functional role – passive or active, dominant or submissive -- within the hierarchical structure and resulting self-awareness is the eventual goal. Whether the sculptures invite the audience to assess their own delusions of the self in a reflective surface, or display the failed remnants of a plea to stop, together the works create a greater dialogue reflective of the struggles of truth in self-perception. It is within this self-insight that one can dissolve illusions of perceived power and find value in that which has intrinsic value.
Clay, the material itself, has become a vehicle for these self-revelations. It has become a substitute for the self, a performer. The clay hardens, breaks down and recycles, dries, cracks, and leaves traces. These are constants, like humans have constants. Because of a specific input, certain outcomes are predictable. Conversely, when something performs outside of the predictable norm – pay attention and open to the act of empathy.
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