Bethany Krull: Show Boat, 2011, porcelain, modified “premie” diaper, 22”H x 21”W x 7”D
Bethany Krull: Surrogate (Chameleon/Topiary), detail
Overthrown: Linda Sormin, Mine (i hear him unclip me / blood runs cold), detail, 2010–11. Glazed ceramic; souvenir kitsch; and studio remnants from Tim Berg, Gerit Grimm, Nathan Craven, Robyn Gray, and Ted Yoon. Photo by Jeff Wells.
Overthrown: Linda Sormin, Mine (i hear him unclip me / blood runs cold), 2010–11. Glazed ceramic; souvenir kitsch; and studio remnants from Tim Berg, Gerit Grimm, Nathan Craven, Robyn Gray, and Ted Yoon. Photo by Jeff Wells.
Overthrown: Paul Sacaridiz, An Incomplete Articulation (detail), 2011. Porcelain, powder-coated aluminum, steel, paper, cut vinyl, and wood. Photo by Jeff Wells.
Overthrown: Martha Russo and Katie Caron, Apoptosis (detail), 2010–11. Porcelain, paper clay, glaze materials, colored pigments, assorted tools, steel and hardware, silicone, LED Lights, compact fluorescents, electrical cables, wires and conductors, utility poles, abaca paper, beeswax.
Overthrown: Clare Twomey, Collecting the edges. 2011. Red clay dust. Site-specific project for the Denver Art Museum supported by Jana and Fred Bartlit. Photo by Jeff Wells. #6
Overthrown: Clare Twomey, Collecting the edges. 2011. Red clay dust. Site-specific project for the Denver Art Museum supported by Jana and Fred Bartlit. Photo by Jeff Wells. #5
Overthrown: Clare Twomey, Collecting the edges. 2011. Red clay dust. Site-specific project for the Denver Art Museum supported by Jana and Fred Bartlit. Photo by Jeff Wells. #4
Interview with Clare Twomey, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, Denver Art Museum, July 2011
Ceramics Now Magazine: Collecting the edges is the name of your work exhibited at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition. It’s a site-specific project that enhances the corners and the ceiling of the space, but it also enhances the edges of the exhibition. Tell us about this project.
Clare Twomey : Collecting the edges is a response to the architecture of the two buildings one designed by Ponte and the other by libeskind. The work I made collects and focuses their shared dialogues of space and light across the whole museum site. When moving thought the two buildings you become aware of the complexity of architecture of both guiding you through the depth and layers of the buildings, my work responds to this. The soft rich clay dust has collected in the edges of these architectual details and staggering flights of space in both buildings. The clay acts as one authorship uniting the two buildings for the time of this exhibition.
The pure red Colorado clay drifts describe the material alone, the way they ease up against the architecture describe the shapes and light in the building.
The temporary nature of this work allows it to be at a different pace to the monumental structures it is formed by. It is a reminder of a moment in time, rather than a permanent demand.
Clare Twomey, Collecting the edges. 2011. Red clay dust. Site-specific project for the Denver Art Museum supported by Jana and Fred Bartlit. Photo by Jeff Wells
Ceramics Now Magazine: From all the artists exhibiting at the Overthrown, you seem to have an outstanding easiness of making site-specific installations. Where did you learn this? (Or is it learnable?)
Clare Twomey: When I left the RCA 15 years ago installation work in the field of the applied arts was in its infancy. This allowed me to create my own language of large scale and temporary works that did not become a competitive language but a meaningful exploration of potential within a material specific dialogue.
Through critical appraisal and practical learning in visual languages and context the work I have made has developed and is nurtured by all the wonderful curators I have had the opportunity to work with. In all the projects I have worked on the curators and myself have only hoped to make new work that can question the current contexts of making and meaning within the structures of craft, clay and the wider visual arts. Part of this is my personal drive to make work that continues to challenge the work i have made and that I want to making the future. To learn this is to only look at a set of skills, to want to be immersed in this, is a personal undertaking that involves the kind of risk that is outside of a given learning environment.
Ceramics Now Magazine: Your previous works have been exhibited at Tate and Victoria and Albert Museum; how did you receive Gwen Chanzit’s invitation of exhibiting your works at the Denver Art Museum? With excitement, or with reservations? You can also tell us how long it took to come up with the project.
Clare Twomey : When I was installing my work “a dark day in Paradise” 2010 at the Brighton Pavilion I received a phone call from Gwen Chanzit. I remember this clearly as I was sitting in a chair looking at a stuffed duck on a platter in the grand kitchen whilst also directing the composition of hundreds of black ceramic butteries from the ceiling in the great kitchen.
Gwen talked with great passion and intelligence of the museums intention to focus on clay across the whole museum for the duration of summer 2011. This was an amazing idea that a whole museum and its collection would lay emphasis on one material. I was immediately taken with the ambition of this and Gwen’s invitation to make a new work across the whole museums architecture was second to none. This felt like it would be a defining moment to examine scale, architecture and languages across a broad site.
Clare Twomey, Collecting the edges. 2011. Red clay dust. Site-specific project for the Denver Art Museum supported by Jana and Fred Bartlit. Photo by Jeff Wells
My work would sit across the whole museum and also reach into the contemporary clay exhibition – Clay with out limits. The artists invited to this exhibition were all my contemporaries, they are the defining makers of our time, I was thrilled to have a shared dialogue in this context. It was a privilege to be invited to make a vast work and be in the context of such a ground breaking and enabling exhibition.
From London to Denver we shared books, pictures and architectural plans, Gwen visited my studio in London and I made a site visit to the Museum. When visiting a site one must arrive with a very open mind, I had on our first visit no planned ideas for the work. I made a response to the architecture I experienced and this was vastly influential in the development of the concept.
The whole development happened in one year from invitation through to delivery in the museum. The museum was incredibly supportive of a challenging work.
Ceramics Now Magazine: What do you think about the exhibition, about it’s scale? Overall, there are 25 exhibiting artists.
Clare Twomey: The exhibition Clay without limits is a moment in time; the lead thinkers and makers of clay work in the USA and beyond responded with ambition to Gwen’s invitation. The nature of Gwen’s invitation is the core of the curatorial prowess of the exhibition. She approach the artists and gave them an opportunity to make works for the future, each artist I feel has not done what they did before, Gwen’s good curatorial sensibilities drew out the best work these makers have produced to date. It is a great exhibition.
The groups of artists that are bound together in this exhibition possibly for the first time, here they are seen as a movement. We can see in the landscape of making how these artists make sense as a group, a large group. We can see what happens at the centre what happens on the edges. If this show had been any smaller it may have replicated exhibitions that came before but its scale means that now we can see clearly where we are now and what the future holds.
Ceramics Now Magazine: What are you working on now? What are your future plans?
Clare Twomey : I am currently the artist residence at the Victoria &Albert Museum in London. This is a 6-month residence that is in a studio in the middle of the ceramics collection. The residency acts as live studio in the museum; I am working experimental works looking authenticity and multiples. The web pages that link to this are http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/people-pages/clare-twomey/
As research Fellow at the University of Westminster I have just started work on a 3-year project that investigates the history and impact of ceramic installation in museums. Within this project given funding from the AHRC myself and my fellow investigators Christie Brown and Edmund de Waal will be publishing works, a website and a collection of texts.
The next fully formed work that will be on exhibit is that for an Art Museum in Bergen, Permanenten The West Norway Museum of Decorative Art. For the exhibition Thing Tang Trash-Up cycling in Contemporary Ceramics. This work is a vast work that spreads from the grand entrance to the main exhibition gallery.
Born in 1968, UK, Clare Twomey lives and works in London, UK.
Clare Twomey is a British artist and a research fellow at the University of Westminster who works with clay in large-scale installations, Sculpture and site-specific works. Over the past 10 years she has exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate, Crafts Council, Museum of Modern Art Kyoto Japan, the Eden Project and the Royal Academy of Arts.
Within these works Twomey has maintained her concerns with materials, craft practice and historic and social context.
Clare Twomey’s installations have the social and historical context in which the installation is created as their point of departure. Often they only exist within these frameworks. A number of her installations disappear or perish in the course of the exhibition period as part of the work. Often the onlooker’s mode of behaviour is conceptually included in Twomey’s works. This, for example, applied to the artwork Conscience/Consciousness (2003), in which Twomey had covered the floor of the gallery with very thin ceramic tiles which broke when trodden on.
At the Brighton Pavilion she housed thousands of black butterflies that became a veil of mourning in amongst the wonderful yet menacing rooms of the Pavilion creating a discussion about the indulgence and excess of the building and its creation.
At the Royal Academy she worked with the traditional flower makers in stoke on Trent to make hundreds of exotic flowers in a work titled Specimen that examined the protection of objects and the destruction of objects as the flowers were not fired and exposed to the publics touch through the exhibition. This vulnerability relates top the losing of craft skills in Stoke on Trent.
Clare Twomey is actively involved in critical research in the area of the applied arts, including writing, curating and making. She has developed work, which expands the fields’ knowledge of larger scale installation works.
Visit Clare Twomey’s website.
Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine
Interview with Mia Mulvey, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, Denver Art Museum, July 2011
Ceramics Now Magazine: Tell us about Mast Year, your work exhibited at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition.
Mia Mulvey : I chose the Oak, America’s National Tree, because it has long been a symbol of endurance and strength. The title, Mast Year, refers to the phenomenon in which Oak trees produce a prodigious abundance of fruit. This proliferation has been recreated with emblems of beauty and nature: birds, butterflies and moths. Lacking life and using forms present in death such as bird “skins” and insect mounts, the connection between the tree and the fauna (pins and cable ties) highlight the forced, unnatural attempts to recreate the sublime by using synthetic, man made modes of connection. Historically, swarms and flocks and have been viewed as omens of both luck and death and such sights in nature are rare if not completely absent. The ultimate goal of Mast Year is to invoke something beautiful yet dark that speaks to the fragility of nature as well as the more poetic and undefined feelings of loss and the desire to exert control despite its futility.
Mia Mulvey, Mast Year, 2011. Stoneware, porcelain, cable ties, and pins. Photo by Jeff Wells.
Ceramics Now Magazine: Your works have a very strong connection with nature, and you can almost say that they are indeed natural. How come you are exhibiting them in museums? Shouldn’t they be part of a free, wild space?
Mia Mulvey: I am interested in creating sculptures that, while realistic in form, are models or copies. Like plaster casts found in both art and science museums they stand in for the original that exists someplace else. They are re-creations that reveal and highlight our misconceptions, viewpoints and our “understanding” of the world.
Ceramics Now Magazine: Why did you take this challenge of exploring the nature in a scientific way? Are you trying to replicate the nature?
Mia Mulvey : The idea of replication and recreation is central to this piece. It is both integral to the concept as well as technically significant. In my work I spend a great deal of time making sure my work is real and factual. I spend a great deal of researching and manipulating my forms so that they are as realistic as possible.I want my work to correlate to a nature “out there” that exists in one form or another. In Mast Year, it exemplifies a nature that we are trying to put back together.
As to why am I exploring nature in a scientific way? I am continually inspired by science, specifically the ideas of discovery and wonder. Albertus Magnus defined wonder as: “Wonder is the movement of the man who does not know on his way to finding out, to get at the bottom of that which he wonders and to determine its cause.”
Under this definition, wonder is not a static moment; it is the moment of inspiration through the act of learning and discovering the truth. These ideas are present both as concepts in my work as well as guides for my studio process and research.
Mia Mulvey, Mast Year, detail, 2011. Stoneware, porcelain, cable ties, and pins. Photo by Jeff Wells.
Ceramics Now Magazine: You are inspired by an environment that is eternal - the natural world, but unfortunately, your works (or anybody’s works), are ephemeral. Are you disturbed by this, or are you happy with the fact that some day your works will be taken away by nature?
Mia Mulvey: I view this as opposite really. For me, nature is ephemeral and our understanding of the natural world and science is always changing. Part of the reason I work with ceramics (porcelain specifically) is that is has a history of delicacy and beauty in tandem with strength and longevity. Ceramics hold up remarkably well while many other things decay. For Mast Year I wanted to juxtapose fragility with strength both physically and conceptually.
Ceramics Now Magazine: What will you be working on in the near future?
Mia Mulvey : I am very excited to spend the rest of the year back in the studio. I have long been interested in digital tools and how I can use them with ceramics. For Mast Year, I worked with a material called porcelain tape (Keraflex). I experimented with a laser cutter and developed a process for cutting and handling the material to achieve pieces more delicate and exact than I could create by hand (the butterflies and moths). I plan on starting on a series of works which explore these new possibilities and also incorporates 3-dimensional printing.
"The scientific and museum context identifies a system based on order, fact and discovery. It is within this system of scientific display, process and ideology that my work exists. Museums of Science and Natural History evolved from the curiosity cabinets of the 16th and 17th centuries. These collections were displays of specimens, oddities, art and inventions. They permitted the viewer to relive the moment of discovery and to inspire ‘wonder’. In the 18th century there began a shift, instead of poetic spectatorship objects began to be classified and ordered. Taxonomy gave way to the museums of natural history and the museums of art. I am utilizing the scientific/ museum context to explore the notions of ‘wonder’ and the ‘real’. . In my work I am inspired by science and in it our ability to discover wonder. In nature, we are faced with a familiar but superficially understood natural world. It is through such discoveries of wonder and beauty that we deepen our understanding of the inner workings of nature and how they may be applied to our lives.
In Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Albertus Magnus wrote: ”Wonder is the movement of the man who does not know on his way to finding out, to get at the bottom of that which he wonders and to determine its cause.”
Under this definition, wonder is not a static moment; it is the process from the unfamiliar towards understanding. I am interested in the illustrative, educational representation of objects that reflect the notions of wonder and natural beauty. Nature is an infinite spectrum of such ideas. Through science and mathematics this world can be delved into and discoveries of wonder can be made. Through the investigation of scientific processes and contexts I can present real and imaginary objects that hint at the multi-layered discoveries of wonder, innovation and beauty found in nature. I seek to present the unknown and make the irrational rational.” Mia Mulvey
Visit Mia Mulvey’s website.
Interview with Paul Sacaridiz, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, Denver Art Museum, July 2011
Ceramics Now Magazine: Tell us about your work exhibited at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition.
Paul Sacaridiz : An incomplete articulation is a new work designed for the Denver Art Museum. The piece utilizes the conceptual framework of a schematic diagram to point towards differing ways of articulating form. Sagging mounds of ceramic extrusions are situated alongside precise mathematical models and awkward structural forms. Individual components are physically and conceptually networked together, creating an elaborate three-dimensional system of mapping that becomes suggestive of propositional models and utopian systems. The work is comprised of objects that are intentionally fabricated in a variety of ways, ranging from digitally rendered and prototyped to more direct, analog processes.
Paul Sacaridiz, An Incomplete Articulation, 2011. Cast, extruded, pinched ceramic, wood, powder coated aluminium, cut vinyl, board. Photo by Jeff Wells.
Ceramics Now Magazine: Does your work, An Incomplete Articulation, trying to reach an agreement between simple/ decorative and geometric/ architectural forms?
Paul Sacaridiz : For a number of years, my work has looked at the visual correlation between domestic objects, such as decorative food molds, and the actual structures of built architecture. In many of these works, the approach to abstraction has relied upon decoration and pattern becoming something structural, rather than simply applied to a surface. An incomplete articulation follows this approach, but is less metaphorical than past projects. Ultimately, the piece is a response to considering systems of abstraction and the seemingly impossible task of understanding something in its entirety.
Ceramics Now Magazine: You have an amazing ability of transforming every-day forms and simple objects into a complex statement. Isn’t it hard? From our experience, keeping it simple is sometimes the hardest thing to do.
Paul Sacaridiz: There is a tipping point in every piece, that place where what you have done is simply too much. One of the greatest challenges that I set for myself is figuring out what can be removed before the overall work starts to break down. This results in a very slow pace of observing and responding to a piece of sculpture. As time has passed, I am most interested in exploring a sculptural logic that is both pragmatic and highly allusive at the same time. This relies on a specific balance, which has to be reevaluated with each project.
Paul Sacaridiz, An Incomplete Articulation, detail, 2011. Cast, extruded, pinched ceramic, wood, powder coated aluminium, cut vinyl, board. Photo by Jeff Wells.
Ceramics Now Magazine: What advice can you give to those who look at your works? Should they be aware of something in particular?
Paul Sacaridiz: Looking at sculpture should be experiential; the scale of the work and its materiality are as critical to the overall reading as conceptual concerns. Viewing work should never be a passive activity and one needs to be engaged in deciphering images and objects at a multitude of levels. If I have done my job correctly there will be multiple entry points in any given piece. There are many tropes that allow this to happen, and they should be taken as such. If an object appears to be beautiful or illogical, it has the capacity to operate on an emotive or philosophical level. Both are equally valuable, and afford a jumping off point from which one can look at something from a position of curiosity, questioning and wonder.
Ceramics Now Magazine: Where can we find you and your works in the next future?
Paul Sacaridiz : I am on the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and will be teaching a workshop next summer at the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, in Deer Isle, Maine. Over the next year I will be working on a project that seeks to explore the limitations of three-dimensional scanning and the possibility of translating that information into tangible objects. Scanning is generally successful with objects that are solid volumes and therefore “readable” as a continuous surface. My primary interest is in scanning things that are not single surfaces, but rather conglomerations of multiple layers. Such information may prove challenging, if not impossible to fully record, resulting in a surface that is technically a failure in terms of the computers ability to read and render it in a complete mathematical state. I see this research as being as much a question of physical possibilities and limitations (of machinery, technology, etc…) as a philosophical investigation into abstraction and the limitations of understanding something that is perhaps impossible to fully grasp.
Paul Sacaridiz (b.1970, Brooklyn, NY, lives and works in Madison, WI) received an MFA (1998) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a BFA from Alfred University (1993).
Since 1997 he has been active in solo exhibitions, collaborative projects and group shows at a diverse number of venues including: The Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, the Icheon World Ceramic Center, Icheon, Korea, The Dubuque Museum of Art (IA), The Alfedena Gallery, Chicago, The Northern Illinois University Art Museum and the Ceramic Research Center at Arizona State University. His work has been the subject of reviews and articles in Ceramics: Art and Perception, The New Art Examiner and Art Papers among others. Sacaridiz has been the recipient of residencies at the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, The Ragdale Foundation, The Vermont Studio Center and the Art/Industry Program at Kohler Company.
He is currently an Associate Professor in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Visit Paul Sacaridiz’s website.
Interview with Benjamin DeMott, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, Denver Art Museum, July 2011
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.
"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.
Interview with Linda Sormin, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, Denver Art Museum, July 2011
Ceramics Now Magazine: Tell us about your work exhibited in the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition.
Linda Sormin : This installation, Mine: i hear him unclip me, explores forms and structures of uncertainty height, and depth. I am curious about the sites and processes of mining. Two years ago in my installation “Rift” at the Middlesbrough Museum of Modern Art in the UK, I invited the curator, James Beighton, to crawl through a Plexiglas tube high in the air, wearing a mining hat and safety goggles. I asked him to “mine” the tunnels of the work by breaking open my hand-built porcelain pieces with a wooden hammer and chisel.
For this current installation in Denver, I scavenged and borrowed materials and objects from the Colorado School of Mines and Geological Museum in Golden, CO, and the Edgar Experimental Mines in Idaho Springs, CO. Boulder ReSource and thrift shops in the area were also sources of materials and forms, including a stained glass door picturing a coyote and flowers, and a large brown ear-less plastic bear head.
Linda Sormin, Mine (i hear him unclip me / blood runs cold), 2010–11. Glazed ceramic; souvenir kitsch. Photo by Jeff Wells.
With the extraordinary technical assistance of my partner Seth Hisiger, I worked at my studio in Providence, RI for 4 months to create the ceramic components for the work. With extruded stoneware tubes and hand-pinched grids of red earthenware clay, we created linear drawings in space with fired and glazed ceramics. Because the installation was sited on a large slanting wall in the museum (it leans 110 degrees away from the viewer), we needed to build a mock wall at this exact angle in my studio. After Seth built this wall and developed a system of steel pipe to be mounted to it, we were able to test the structure by threading sections of the ceramic grids through the pipe. I’ve been interested in “skewering” ceramics (like meat!) in this way for a few years now. Final installation at the Denver Art Museum took 12 days. For the first three days we worked closely with John Lupe’s outstanding installation team of eight, two motorized lifts and (for me at least) high levels of adrenaline. At first, I felt quite daunted by the large number of heavy, super-fragile objects we needed to mount to and balance on that wall – and I’m a little scared of heights. Maybe more than a little. While hand-pinching raw clay into the piece at 25 feet up, my knees went weak and I had to sit down. So I worked that way in the gallery space – harnessed and clipped into a metal basket, legs dangling down.
Ceramics Now Magazine: Do you find it challenging to construct your works with objects from different places? You can also tell us what it’s like to work with recycled materials.
Linda Sormin : I am always grateful for the opportunity to work with objects from different places, with different histories of function and use in specific cultures. It’s a challenge that whets my appetite for making. I hope to tell stories with these things, to weave together abstract real-time narratives that invent or re-establish connections between objects, situations, people and places. Recycled objects are used objects with a past life. Their lack of innocence prevents them from being predictable to me, and their idiosyncrasies help to shape my installations. Their flaws resonate in the work, and in my imagination.
Linda Sormin, Mine (i hear him unclip me / blood runs cold), detail, 2010–11. Glazed ceramic; souvenir kitsch. Photo by Jeff Wells.
Ceramics Now Magazine: People described you as being extreme. How far do you agree with this?
Linda Sormin : In some ways, I think this could be true. On the other hand, I question if we can consider anyone working in a craft-based art profession to be extreme. In comparison to what? is what I’d ask.
I imagine that being balanced and moderate would lead to a steadier, more peaceful way of life. I do often feel compelled to explore the edges of experiences, and feel that it is necessary to push boundaries and takes risks in order to comprehend the situations and behaviors of materials, things and people. This is the normal task of the artist, however – so it’s not extreme, just a choice – a research methodology perhaps. If I were less “extreme” I might not get into the messes that I often find myself in. And then where would I be? These messes keep me alert and attentive to the work.
Ceramics Now Magazine: Where do you get inspiration for your works, do you have any hobbies?
Linda Sormin: I enjoy learning about objects and how they seem to behave in the world. From tools to clothing, domestic interiors to trash, digital technology to hands-on processes, I draw ideas and narratives from how people interact with things. Recently, I’ve been interested in the powerful machinery and risky methods used by people in so-called “manly” professions such as mining and marine work. When I visited the Edgar Experimental Mines in Idaho Springs, CO this past spring, I met miners who were studying outer space mining, as well as working with the military to develop approaches for underground operations. I’ve often used “mining” and un-grounding” as metaphors in writing and making – so it was humbling and enlightening to witness the real thing, and get to know the people actually working in these fields.
Ceramics Now Magazine: You tend to take adventurous tasks and use all kinds of materials. Do you think that one day you will be able to interfere with fashion to create pret-a-porter clothing from recycled materials?
Linda Sormin: There seems to be a growing number of people practicing apparel design in this way. I absolutely love clothes and am always excited by garments that offer material or social meaning from unexpected places. I would be thrilled to collaborate with a fashion designer or textile artist someday. Do you know anyone who’d be interested in working with someone like me who can’t sew a straight line?
Ceramics Now Magazine: Where can we find you and your works in the next future?
Linda Sormin : From August 4 - September 17 of this year, I will be in Norway making new work in the studios of the National Fine Art Academy in Bergen. My partner Seth Hisiger and I will be installing the work in the context of the China Collection at the West Norway Museum of Decorative Arts. From October 7-10 I’ll be giving a workshop at the Haystack Mountain School of Craft on Deer Isle, Maine. From October 27-29, I’ll be back in Bergen to speak at the Thing Tang Trash: Upcycling in Contemporary Ceramic Art Symposium.
Linda Sormin, Mine (i hear him unclip me / blood runs cold), detail, 2010–11. Glazed ceramic; souvenir kitsch; and studio remnants from Tim Berg, Gerit Grimm, Nathan Craven, Robyn Gray, and Ted Yoon. Photo by Jeff Wells.
The site looms above and veers past, willing me to compromise, to give ground. I roll and pinch the thing into place, I collect and lay offerings at its feet. This architecture melts and leans, hoarding objects in its folds. It lurches and dares you to approach, it tears cloth and flesh, it collapses with the brush of a hand.
Nothing is thrown away. This immigrant lives in fear of waste. Old yogurt is used to jumpstart the new batch. What is worth risking for things to get juicy, rare, ripe? What might be discovered on the verge of things going bad?
Linda Sormin is a Canadian sculptor based in Providence, Rhode Island. Through objects and site-specific installations, Sormin’s work explores issues of fragility and aggression, mobility and survival. Born in Bangkok, Sormin has a BA in English Literature and worked in community development for four years in Thailand and Lao PDR. She studied ceramics at Andrews University, Sheridan School of Crafts & Design (Grad 2001) and Alfred University (MFA 2003).
Sormin’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, most recently at the Denver Art Museum (Denver, USA), gl Holtegaard (Denmark), Vallauris (France), Middlesbrough (UK), Providence, Philadelphia and New Orleans. From 2003-06, Sormin taught ceramics at Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, BC. For 5 years, she taught at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI, first as Assistant Professor (2006-09) then as Associate Professor (2009-11) and Head of Ceramics (2010-11).
Visit Linda Sormin’s website.
Interview by Iunia Ratiu with help from Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine.