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.
Saint’s Sculptures between the XIX and the XX century / Casa Vestita, Grottaglie, Taranto, Italy March 29 – April 15, 2012
Opening reception: Thursday, March 29th, 18.30 pm.
For the first time ever, there will be exhibited over 95 votive terracotta figurines representing some of the saints venerated in Puglia, a tangible sign of the widespread devotion to Southern home.
Fifteen photos by photographer Ciro Quaranta will open the exhibition, who in the last thirty years has been conducting a thorough research on the popular faith in Puglia, managing to put together a file that describes moments of faith and devotion that are cyclically repeated during the centuries.
The exhibition “Sacralità domestica”, maintained by the archaeologist Simone Mirto and ceramist Mimmo Vestita will open in Via Crispi 63/A on the 29th of March, and runs until 15 April, enriching the range of cultural offerings in regional during the Easter season when many tourists reach the Salento to enjoy the balmy spring temperatures or to attend the renowned Holy Week Rites in Taranto.
The votive statues accompanied by the photographs tell the intimate relationship between man and the sacred, an extraordinary exhibition which takes visitors through different eras of environments, all enclosed in the picturesque setting of Casa Vestita in the heart of the “City of ceramics”. Grottaglie is thus prepared to the first exhibition that puts a spotlight on an aspect of popular devotion, at a specific time such as Easter, in which the mystery of faith is particularly felt by the community.
"A recious and rare exhibition" - Simone Mirto, curator of the exhibition. Sacralità domestica is the first exhibition in Italy that traces the lower production of votive terracotta figurines made in Grottaglie.
Art should come from the heart of the artist, it should engage the audience, it should connect with the community, it should start a dialog, a debate. It should get people to look at things in a way they have not thought of, or to see what they have looked at but not really seen. Art has to come deeply from the artist, there has to be raw emotion and honesty in the work if it is to connect with people. An Artist paints and sculpts what they know. These are all the reasons I wanted to do a show about Alzheimer’s disease. To start a dialog, to connect, to get people to understand what it is like to have the disease, it is a part of my life, so it is what I know, what I am around. I took those thoughts and feelings and transformed them into visuals to engage my audience. I speak through paint and clay. Art is a look inside the artist, what I am feeling is transferred into the clay while I am sculpting, Those feelings have to go somewhere. I wanted to tell a story, I wanted you to feel how it is, the frustrations, humor, the compassion and the heartache of having Alzheimer’s disease and for the ones caring for one with this disease.
William Faulkner said it best ~ The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it it moves again since it is life.
Ceramics Now Magazine: There is visible consistency in your creation. What was the starting point in your investigation with ceramic art?
Brian Kakas: The starting for my works comes from the traditional vessel and understanding the primary elements in design. I have taken the elements of the foot, body and lip of a pot and applied them as more structural elements within my sculptural designs. Development of a language within these components has allowed the works to maintain continuity through the progression of forms. The works become more refined as I focus on transitions of lines and volume. Complexity in the structures, are inspired from marine life, geological formations, buildings, bridge design and armor. With the creation of all my works I try to stay true to the inherent properties of the materials.
Your works reveal a very rigorous methodology. Tell us more about the process of constructing them. Do you make preliminary drawings?
I used to draw blueprints for my pottery and sculptures. But the works always seemed to lose something in the translation from 2D to 3D. I think the spontaneity of the sketch and energy never quite translated. Once I began using slump and drapes molds I began to only sketch gestural drawings with ink. This allowed me take an idea (not a concrete design) and began to find new forms through exploring hidden lines within objects while only maintaining the idea of the gesture. I apply the gestural line I am looking for onto the X, Y and Z axis of the object in order to maintain flow and control of the entire 3 dimensional space it occupies. I am working with a modular mold system, which allows me to create an inventory of parts to pick and choose from freely. This system allows me to maintain being in a “state of art” while exploring new forms. The sculptures are hollow and all have an inherent strength as I complete lines whether circular or elliptical, symmetrical or asymmetrical. Then I construct a lip on the vessels using armature, just like ribs in an airplane wing or in a boat hull. The ribs create a template to be covered with slabs, which accentuates the forms I have already created. The tensile strength of this element keeps the hollow forms from warping or moving during the firing process.
Architectonics – Hull Improv, side view, 2011. White stoneware, slab built, 38”L x 18”W x 17”H, Cone 04 Oxidation - View his works
Tell us more about large scale fabrication. Taking the size into consideration, have you confronted with some particular technological problems?
I found through many accidents, the importance of the foundation you build on. There were many cracking issues early on in the high arches of the sculptures. I thought it was uneven displacement of weight that could be resolved by building additional supports that were fired with the works. But with continual cracking at the point of the supports I began reviewing the overall movement of the pieces throughout the shrinkage stages, from cone 04 to cone 10 the problems were the same.