Ceramics Now Magazine: You are both a painter and a ceramic artist; is one medium closer to you than another?
Cindy Billingsley: Both mediums have equal places in my heart. It mainly depends on the subject or idea I have, clay is sometimes better at conveying my passion or idea then paint is. There is nothing like the feel of clay in hand. I can say in Ceramics what I can not with paint. Clay is felt with all, the eyes, hands and the heart. No other medium can do this. Clay comes from the earth and has that feeling of being alive if sculptures right. If you look closely at a ceramic sculpture you can see the finger marks, the hand prints — it is made by the hand and touch of the artist.
I love in clay that, as an artist, I can take that lump of clay and make it into something magical, something others can touch and see the passion I had for my idea. This is what drew me to clay as my medium.
Chamber Nautlius, 2005, 15” x 18” x 9”, raku clay, hand built solid, hollowed for firing, low fired, cold finish acrylic and wax - View her works
There is a visible fascination for the world of animals reflected in your work; where does this interest come from? Tell us more about the subjects you explore.
Since childhood I have had and felt a closeness with animals. I have lived in the company of animals more than in the company of people. So naturally, I would follow that path with my art. In Ceramics I could finally convey the gesture and mood of an animal with the strokes of the clay without a lot of detail. I have always been more interested in capturing the spirit of an animal or its essence than making an exact model of an animal. Clay freed me up to be able to do this, with quick clay marks here, and strokes of clay there. Clay has that wonderful freedom to it. And Clay sometimes has it’s own ideas about how a piece will come about, that I might not have thought of until I was in the middle of sculpting it. I am drawn to the less familiar animals in my sculptures, like the blue ring octopus, Okapi or fruit bats. These animals fascinate me. Trying to make clay appear like soft fur is the challenge and the fun, like with my Koala sculpture.
“I make sculptures that are inspired by utopian, experimental communities. The pieces suggest architectural models for utopian experiments. My curiosity stems from the ways in which these communities reflect optimism and, the ways in which they simultaneously reflect failure. Modernist ties to the utopic and Modernist architecture also come into play; recent sculptures in layered acrylic are examples of this interest.
Currently, I am also working on hexagonal structures made of concrete covered cardboard. These pieces are influenced by Brutalist architecture, Corbusier’s machines for living and, most strongly, by Robert Smithson’s slide lecture (1972) on Hotel Palenque to the architectural faculty at the University of Utah.
I’ve been visiting the sites of a number of utopian communities (Drop City (CO), Libre (CO), New Buffalo (NM), the Oneida Community (NY), Fruitlands (MA)…) and I’ve videotaped what remains there. Compiling this video footage and adding off-hand, stop-action animated figurative elements is a related current project. I envision clusters of these various works – the sparkling city, the concrete ruins and the small screen video – creating an environment both visually rich and suggestive of societal energy and entropy.” Susan Meyer
→ Susan Meyer is a special featured artist on Ceramics Now Magazine.
NURSE - A show of drawings and sculptures by Cynthia Lahti, PDX Contemporary Art
August 30, 2011 - October 1, 2011
“My goal is to create works of art that resonate with honesty and reflect the beauty and chaos of the world. 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 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. I work in various media, including drawing, collage, and sculpture.
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.” Cynthia Lahti
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.
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.