Interview with ceramic artist Cynthia Lahti - Spotlight- Recognized artist, April 2011
Cynthia Lahti: I am working on several ideas right now: people wearing disguises, busts of elegant women, and male/ female couples. These are all subjects that have always interested me but that I have never fully explored.
I am also continuing to use some of the broken piece from my discarded sculptures that I have saved. This idea started in 2010 with he creation of the sculpture Vault Alarm that was composed of broken sculptures. In my current exploration of this idea, I am experimenting with combining the broken pieces together to form a new figure. This idea came from realizing that when I destroying unsuccessful sculptures, body pieces that remained were often extremely interesting to me and I could not discard them. I am finally inspired to see how they look combined together and I have been very excited by the results.
Socks - View her works
In what technique do you usually work and what materials do you use?
I am focusing on hand-built ceramic sculptures of human and animal figure(s). I like to use a wide variety of clay bodies, my favorite being porcelain. I have used all types of firing techniques to achieve the final surface treatment on the pieces. I am most excited but the results I have been getting from cone 10 soda and salt firings and low fire raku.
What was the starting point in your investigation?
I start by finding images of figures that intrigue me in older books and magazine, I then do drawing of the images and finally sculptures, inspired by these drawings, are create out of clay.
My art is influenced by human artifacts from ancient times to the present, as well as by my personal experiences and emotions. Like the varied objects and images I draw on for inspiration - from 1940s knitting catalogs and outsider art, to Native American cedar carvings and Degas’ sculptures of dancers—my artworks force an explanation of reality and compel viewers to connect to a larger human experience. Currently I am focusing on ceramic sculpture based on expressive images of the figure I find in a variety of source materials. There are so many figures out there in the world, wearing so many poses and costumes; I find those that resonate and interpret them in clay. Each sculpture expresses an intense inner psychological state, its surface effecting a fluctuating quality, part beautiful, part grotesque.
Vault Alarm - View her works
What form of exhibiting do you like most, what suits you? Tell us about your past exhibitions or residencies.
I am most excited by artistic experiences (exhibitions of my work, residencies and workshops), that challenge my artistic process. I have shown in both commercial and alternative galleries and have greatly enjoyed presenting finished bodies of work in both type of venues. My goal is to present the work in the setting most appropriate to the content of the artwork and that gives the most people a chance to experience it. I really like learning new things and have attended workshops in casting glass at the Pilchuck Glass School and residencies in ceramic surface treatments at the Oregon College of Arts and Craft and iron casting at the Maryhill Museum of Art. I love being immersed in these experiences where I can learn new techniques and meet and be inspired by artist from around the world.
Ceramics Now Magazine: From your experience, tell us what did you learn from working with different materials?
I love learning new techniques, and focus on how different ceramic materials and processes effects how the art expresses ideas. Each technique creates a different results and they each evoke a different emotional response. I am very relaxed about accidents happening and sometimes I actually encourage this by breaking pieces or leaving cracks and other imperfections. I have achieved amazing surface effects by being so relaxed about accidents. At the same time I control certain aspects of the work, such as what type of clay body I use, the way it its sculpted ( my realistic sculpting style) and how it is fired. One of the reasons I like the soda/salt firings is that the results always surprise me in a good way, the realistic sculptures react well to the accidents that happen in the kiln. The finished peices reflect this tension between control and accident that is very exciting and has always been a theme through all my artwork.
Underpants - View her works
Where can we find you and your works in the next future?
Cynthia Lahti: My work will be featured in the magazine Plazm issue #30, the REBIRTH issue to be released in May 2011. for more info on Plazm and to order the magazine: http://www.plazm.com/
Also I have am planning on creating a catalogue about my art that should be done by the fall of 2011.
More info on on this book and upcoming shows and events can be found on my website: http://cynthialahti.blogspot.com/
I grew up in Portland Oregon, leaving to earn my bachelors degree at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1985. After graduating I returned to Portland where I continue to live and make my art. Currently I am focusing on ceramic sculpture based on expressive images of the figure I find in a variety of source materials. There are so many figures out there in the world, wearing so many poses and costumes; I find those that resonate and interpret them in clay. Each sculpture expresses an intense inner psychological state, its surface effecting a fluctuating quality, part beautiful, part grotesque. To further inspire my life and art I travel, exploring eclectic museums of Europe and camping in the wild parts of Oregon. I am represented by PDX Contemporary Art in Portland, Oregon, http://pdxcontemporaryart.com/lahti