Interview with Benjamin DeMott, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition

Interview with Benjamin DeMott, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, Denver Art Museum, July 2011

The special feature for the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition includes images from the exhibition and interviews with some of the exhibiting artists, plus with the curator. Subscribe.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Tell us about your work exhibited at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition.

Benjamin DeMott : Diminutive and impossibly fragile my instillation is an object. Constructed on site I consider the project situational and site specific, a foil among the monumental scale and mass of the exhibition. An intricate composition of splintering porcelain extrusions cantilevers across a clear acrylic box reflecting its madcap geometry in the surface below. Suspended within this labyrinth of line are wafer thin peals of acrylic paint laser cut from direct scans of the ceramic assemblage on which they’re applied. A weighted cast chunk of underglaze balances the porcelain constellation, perched atop its laminated mass is a piece of chewing gum. This functions as a placeholder for concerns with a visceral relationship to scale and a figural/literal jest on taste. More broadly, I’m concerned with traditions in the decorative arts and a modernist handling of material, I aim to afford my audience a friction between wonder, curiosity and the trepidation felt by prospects of uncertainty.

Benjamin DeMott, Untitled Thumbnail, porcelain, paint, glue, glaze, gum, 2011, H 6” x W 9” x D 7”


Ceramics Now Magazine: Your works are mainly assemblages of a variety of materials, which make different connections. How do you make them, what is the process?

Benjamin DeMott : The most playful part of my process is also the most tedious. The task of fixing one end of a ceramic line to another with Elmers glue, Tweezers, fly-tying vices, and at times the aid of an Optivisor. The subtle character of any given connection and the consequential angle and line, generates a case of questions regarding formal relationships of intuited proportions. The parameters of my own patience, vision, and precision with tweezers or lack thereof often define what gets accomplished or not. I approach my assemblages like drawing in space. There is a lot of failure and loss in the studio the happenings of which are great teachers.

Ceramics Now Magazine: There is a high level of uncertainty in your work. Is that induced, did you wanted to be that way?

Benjamin DeMott: If there is any uncertainty in the work it’s seated in the conditions of material and the specific method of construction. A teacher once told me that I shouldn’t be making this kind of work out of clay. That wire would work just as well as it wont be as fragile. I rely on the meaning associated with materials. The myriad implications and signifying qualities of a ceramic line shift the conversation to our shared cultural experience with it. In context fragility operates as an underscore to set of references, and personal insights.
The ephemeral and precarious nature of the work imparts a sense of urgency. As a provisional object it directs you to the present. What is happening now?  What is being seen now? What are these consequences?

Benjamin DeMott, Katie’s Keep, detail, stained porcelain, paint, glue, 2010, dimensions variable

Ceramics Now Magazine: What motivates you and where do you get inspiration for your works?

Benjamin DeMott: Sentimentality, Waning middle class idealism, the color beige, Fischli &Weiss “Quiet Afternoon”, Louise Lawler’s “Pollack and the Soup Tureen”, Richard Tuttle’s drawings, the religious experience of fly fishing, Anne Dillard, and the sensual enjoyment of fine food, drink, and sex.

Ceramics Now Magazine: Where can we find you and your works in the near future?

Benjamin DeMott : I’m moving to Chicago this week, which will be a major sea change and hopefully rejuvenate the work. This September, I’ll be collaborating with Eric Miller, an artist from Philadelphia on our continual project  “Practice of the Druggist” at Hunter College in NY.  Next year I am in a two-person show with Julia Haft Candell at the Greenwich Pottery House.

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"Fragile, thread thin ceramic extrusions are tenuously bound to one another by glues and household fix-it material. The painfully delicate fired ceramic line, zigs and zags splintering into a complex network where the familiarity of scale shifts from that of the watchmaker to the astronomer. Interspersed within these precarious structures are decorative debris. Chips of acrylic paint, and colorful skins of latex hover and sag demarking their compositional space. Highlighting impermanence, these assemblages are contingent and situational, potentially configured for only a short duration.

A playful longing for solidity amidst operatives of change inspires my dialogue with material. My intent is to afford the audience a confrontation, a friction between wonder, awe and the trepidation felt by the prospects of uncertainty. The motive of my work is to question our relationship with impermanence. To be a companion and embrace what uncertainty offers is the aim of my agenda.” Benjamin DeMott

Visit Benjamin DeMott’s website.

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Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine