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interviews with recognized artists

» Overthrown: Clay Without Limits, on view until September 18

The Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition at the Denver Art Museum is on view until September 18, 2011.

"The scale of the space has pushed all the artists to think big, both physically and conceptually. The exhibition, technically demonstrates the inventive use of such an ancient material, while raising contemporary issues. The works in the exhibition challenge traditional notions of “objectness”, providing a depth of content, and creating a diverse dialogue." Katie Caron

Location: Anschutz Gallery, Level Two, Hamilton Building / Denver Art Museum

→ View images from the exhibition (in High Quality) - /Overthrown
→ Read interviews we’ve made with some of the exhibiting artists -  /Overthrown_Interviews

Interview with Gwen F. Chanzit - The curator of the exhibition.
Interview with Katie Caron and Martha Russo
Interview with John Roloff
Interview with Clare Twomey
Interview with Paul Sacaridiz
Interview with Linda Sormin
Interview with Del Harrow
Interview with Mia Mulvey
Interview with Benjamin DeMott

* The Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition will have an extended feature in the first printed issue of Ceramics Now Magazine (November 2011).

  • Interview with Clare Twomey, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition

    Interview with Clare Twomey, 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: 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.

    Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and like our Facebook page if you want to stay in touch with us.
    → Read more interviews with ceramic artists and search through our featured artists.

    Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine

  • Interview with Mia Mulvey, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition

    Interview with Mia Mulvey, 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 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.

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    → Read more interviews with ceramic artists and search through our featured artists.

    Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine

  • 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.

    Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and like our Facebook page if you want to stay in touch with us.
    → Read more interviews with ceramic artists and search through our featured artists.

    Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine

  • Interview with Katie Caron and Martha Russo, exhibiting artists at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition

    Interview with Katie Caron and Martha Russo, exhibiting artists 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.

    Katie Caron:

    Ceramics Now Magazine: Your collaboration transformed into an outstanding piece of contemporary art, Apoptosis. What can you tell us about this collaborative work?

    Working in collaboration with Martha Russo was such a positive and inspiring experience.  We have known each other’s work for years, and always seem to be following similar paths and forms.  It was exciting to work with someone who is so on the same page as you.  For example, the day I did my preliminary sketch of the work on an airplane ride to Detroit, Martha created a small model of the work.  We were shocked to discover, that separate from each other, we both sketched pretty much the same piece.  It was quite eerie! 

    Artist Statement for Apoptosis:
    The site-specific installation connects the museum’s own architecture to a floating swirl of motivated chaos made from a host of ceramic and mixed media materials.  Apoptosis references the genetically directed process of cell self-destruction that makes way for new growth to occur.

    Evoking growth and development, lightness and weight, the work suggests both biological membranes and intertwining industrial lines, conjuring up a tangle of beauty, grotesquerie, buoyancy, and energy.

    The suspended composition has a brace of vantages: the first, a treasure-mesh conceals from the viewer the cryptic viscera of this complex organism, while the second vantage unfolds and unfurls, being pulled by gravity and holding the viewer in a state of suspended wonder.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: Apoptosis looks powerful, twisted, and somehow embrace you to look further. Maybe it’s because of Katie’s previous works that experience illusions, or because of Martha’s work with the physical nature of sculpture?

    Katie Caron : Both of our goals were to engage the viewer to look further, but in different ways. My previous work, as you mentioned, involves the creation of illusions where the viewer is asked to question: what’s real and what’s fabrication?  I am fascinated with our cultures need for escapism, and how we have become addicted to the virtual windows of social media and entertainment.  I hope to tap into this obsession, using theatrical effects to create objects and environments that entice the viewer to look closer and longer.  Asking how virtual objects may compete with virtual media?

    Martha Russo and Katie Caron, Apoptosis (detail), 2010–11. Photo by Jeff Wells.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: Is this a site-project? Did you experience any challenges? (here you can tell us when did you start working on it, or how was the process, if you had any difficulties with the space, etc.)

    Katie Caron : Selection of the space came first, and then the concepts for the work.  We were interested in using a space that had never been used to show work, a space that was unusual.  The architecture of the Denver Art Museum is so powerfully unique, and so we chose a 30 foot slanted wall as our catalyst.

    I began drawing concept sketches for forms, materials, and use of the space.  I wanted to create an installation that looked like it was co-dependant, both foreign to the space, but dependent on the space for survival.  I compare it to animal architecture; the way some insects parasitically transform man-made spaces to suit their needs. 

    The Denver Art Museum was a huge technical support to our installation.  They provided us with the necessary lifts, equipment, and assistance to stage such a complex work.  Mounting the utility poles took some serious preparation and support.  There are over 200 lit porcelain and paper forms, plus another 3,000 other components mounted to the 30 foot slanted wall with steel rods.  The installation was quite labor intensive to say the least.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: What do you think about the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition?

    Katie Caron: It has been an honor to exhibit with such a prominent group of artists.  Gwen Chanzit, curator for Overthrown: Clay Without Limits, has done an admirable job of selecting and encouraging artists to be ambitious.  The scale of the space has pushed all the artists to think big, both physically and conceptually.  The exhibition, technically demonstrates the inventive use of such an ancient material, while raising contemporary issues.   The works in the exhibition challenge traditional notions of “objectness”, providing a depth of content, and creating a diverse dialogue.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: Where do you get your inspiration from and what motivates you, what do you want to discover through your works?

    Katie Caron: We started off with the idea of a chaotic tangle, which led us to look at all kinds of forms, both from biology and industry.  My personal interest was in power lines.  For years, I have looked upward at utility poles, and found their functional aesthetic inspiring.  After undergoing major spinal surgery in 2009, and looking at x-rays of all the hardware in my back, I began to draw connections between the aesthetics of my hardware and the power lines.  Both aesthetics were determined by utility and appeared parasitic to their host forms. 

    While creating the work, I discovered I was pregnant.  I believe this change in my biology positively affected the work to create an illusion that the work was alive, and powered by an external energy force.  Creating cell-like forms with illuminated interiors became my focus for the work.


    Martha Russo and Katie Caron, Apoptosis (detail), 2010–11. Photo by Jeff Wells.

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

    Katie Caron : We are currently looking for another site for the work on both east and west coasts.  I have two solo shows in 2012 in Denver, at Ice Cube Gallery and Hinterland Gallery, where I look to explore the progression of these ideas and materials further.  You can find my work online at http://www.icecubegallery.com/ , and http://www.katiecaron.com/


    Ceramics Now Magazine: Please give an advice to young ceramic artists.

    Katie Caron: My advice to young ceramic artist is two fold:  First, make, make, make!  Ceramics is such a challenging material, so practice exploring all the ways to manipulate the clay is very important.  Don’t be afraid to fail or let the work lead you.  Too often ceramic artists try to control the clay, rather then using it as a guide.  Second, explore other materials as well!  Do not limit yourself to just clay, but build confidence with other materials, processes and concepts.  The more interdisciplinary your work becomes the more questions it can raise.

    Martha Russo:

    Ceramics Now Magazine: Your collaboration transformed into an outstanding piece of contemporary art, Apoptosis. What can you tell us about this collaborative work?
     
    We both started with something that we wanted to investigate from previous works. For Katie is was light and translucent porcelain and paper and for me it was clay combined with metal. We would work independently in our studios and then show each other what we had done and then make more work off of what each other responded to. Conceptually, we started with the word “tangle” and sent each other a flurry of images of any kind of tangle.  Our “image swap” generated a rolling progression of ideas and possibilities. What began to resonate with both of us were notions of electricity and wires, morphing cell production, masses of jumbled objects, and much more. We tested different groupings of the pieces in our studios and got a sense of how to make them physically cling to the wall.  With time our ideas began to coalesce into a hazy notion of what the thousands and thousands of pieces would form.  Because of the enormous scale (30 feet high and 25 feet wide) we really did not know how the installation would work until we put it up in the museum. I think the most important thing about our collaboration is that Katie and I gave each other complete freedom. We deeply trusted each other.  Working with Katie has and continues to be a complete joy and one of incessant wonder and possibility.  I feel infinitely fortunate to know and work with her.  The future is BIG.
     
    Ceramics Now Magazine: Apoptosis looks powerful, twisted, and somehow embraces you to look further. Maybe it’s because of Katie’s previous works that experience illusions, or because of Martha’s work with the physical nature of sculpture?
     
    Martha Russo : I think Apoptosis is a wonderful hybrid of our aesthetics, ways of working, trust in the unknown, and ideas about art.
     
    I just learned of a new word, phototaxis, which means that light compels one to move closer to an object.  I think the mystery and lure of the glowing porcelain forms and the hovering translucent paper spheres draws the viewer in closer to decipher the mass and weight of the cascade of objects, the jumble of metal burned into the clay coupled with the odd beauty and decisive scale of the utility poles. I think Katie and I share the fascination and try to mind the psychology of what intrigues someone to stay with a work of art.


     
    Ceramics Now Magazine: Is this a site-project? Did you experienced any challenges? (here you can tell us when did you start working on it, or how was the process, if you had any difficulties with the space, etc.).
     
    Martha Russo : Because of so many conceptual crossovers and interests in experimenting with materials, Katie and I toyed with the idea of some day doing some work together. When we were invited to the show, separately, the thought of having such a huge gallery space seemed like a great opportunity to collaborate.  After we decided to work together, we picked the space, which had not been used before to exhibit work. The prospects of such an unusual space set us in motion. I was most interested in creating some kind of wave of objects that would appear to have tumbled down the slanted thirty foot wall and Katie had the brilliant idea to connect an existing free-standing gallery wall to the slanted wall with some sort of floating forms.

    The turn-around time for the show was about eleven months, so we had no time to waste. The time pressure really made us work quickly and intuitively while also solving a plethora of technical challenges like using translucent porcelain, learning how to cast and create forms with paper, and coaxing the clay to co-mingle with lots of different kinds of metal. The process was all about discovery - brilliant fun and incessant challenges.  With a very carefully orchestrated plan, full support from the Denver Art Museum every step of the way, and an extremely smart, professional, and adventurous installation crew, the knitting together of the thousands of forms went off really well. Each day brought different challenges and unknowns and after two solid weeks of installing, Apoptosis came into focus.
     
    Ceramics Now Magazine: What do you think about the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition?
     
    Martha Russo: The exhibit, curated by Dr. Gwen Chanzit, is smart, diverse, beautiful, and eye-opening. With every turn in the gallery, there is something really compelling to experience and to ponder.  The show gives a fresh look into the contemporary art world at artists who use the clay process in some innovative and inventive ways.  Being included in the exhibit has not only been and continues to be a great honor but has opened up a breath of possibilities for the future.
     
    Ceramics Now Magazine: Where do you get your inspiration from and what motivates you, what do you want to discover through your works?
     
    Martha Russo: Here is the short list:
     
    not knowing
    cellular complexity and simplicity
    a burl on a tree
    logs jammed in a river bend
    the odd hardware and connective gear on utility poles
    the periodic table
    the miracle of systems in the body
    how my kids explore things
    goo and glue and Dragon Skin
    my husband, Joe, the scientist telling me about how chemicals interact
    how to negotiate with the water content of clay
    being a pyro
    the light of the moon eking out behind the clouds

    Martha Russo and Katie Caron, Apoptosis, 2010–11. Photo by Jeff Wells.
     
    Ceramics Now Magazine: Where can we find you and your works in the next future?
     
    Martha Russo: In the upcoming year, I may be in exhibitions in Seattle, Denver, and Aspen. I am in an art collective, called “Artnauts, which is a group of artist put together by Dr. George Rivera and Garrison Roots, from University of Colorado, Boulder. This year we have shows in Chile, Cuba, Brazil, and two venues in the Middle East.  To see more of my work please go to: http://www.martharussostudio.com/
     
    Ceramics Now Magazine: Please give an advice to young ceramic artists.

    Martha Russo : WORK WORK WORK and WORK SOME MORE. Making anything takes a long time. Staying in the studio and staying with a new idea or process simply takes time, concentration, and focus. Avoid editing away ideas too early. Give everything a long incubation period with unfettered flurries of making and then look at the work carefully.  And lastly, be open to every possible material and process in order to bring an idea to fruition.  Plus have fun.

    ——————————————————————-

    Apoptosis
    2010-2011
    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.

    Apoptosis is a floating swirl of motivated chaos that inhabits the museum’s architecture.  The cascading mass of morphing cell-like forms evokes growth and development, lightness and weight, and connects biological membranes with intertwining industrial lines. With a cacophony of sculptural forms, colors, textures, cables, utility poles, and lights it conjures up a tangle of beauty, grotesquerie, buoyancy, and energy.  Our goal is to create a state of suspended wonder.


    Katie Caron
    Born 1978 in Manchester, Connecticut; lives in Lafayette and works in Lakewood, Colorado

    Katie Caron graduated summa cum laude from Boston University in 2000, and received an MFA in ceramics from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2009. Her work has been in national exhibitions such as Breakdown at Guggenheim Gallery: Chapman University, California, Reinventing Beauty at the Museum of New Art: MONA, Michigan, and Elastic Authenticity at the Morean Art Center in St. Petersburg, Florida.   Caron is presently an Assistant Professor in Fine Arts & Art Education at Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design, and a member of Ice Cube Gallery.   She lives with her husband in Lafayette, CO.

    I am fascinated by escapism: how and why our senses transport us to imaginary worlds, how electronic media change the way we feel the present moment and how it can mediate our lives. Through film and theatrical effects, I immerse viewers in the experience of an illusion—what’s real and what’s fabrication?
    These new worlds are uncanny and mysterious. I explore how unconscious reactions shape emotion; how certain spaces, sounds, and objects may provoke fear or incite wonder.


    Martha Russo
    Born 1962 in Milford, Connecticut; lives in Ward and works in Lakewood, Colorado

    Martha Russo earned a BA in developmental biology and psychology from Princeton University,1985.  Formerly a world-class athlete, she suffered a career-ending injury in 1984 while preparing for the Los Angeles Olympic Games.  After her recovery from surgery, attracted to the physical nature of sculpture, Russo studied studio arts in Florence, Italy, and continued at Princeton University.  In 1995 she earned her MFA at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  Martha is represented by Allan Stone Gallery, New York, New York and Ron Judish, Denver, Colorado.  Martha also teaches at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, Lakewood, Colorado.

    Before children have the language and cognitive skills to name an object, they explore the world with all of their senses.  For instance, a chair is not a “chair” but rather something to climb on, to crawl under, and, perhaps, even to lick.  With the acquisition of language and the awareness of the purpose of something, the investigations dwindle and the senses simmer. My hope is that people approach my work and stay with it because they are not quite sure what it is:  What are the forms?  What are they made out of?  How are they suspended in space?  I make abstract organic sculptures to give people a place to let language and purpose slip away and to allow the senses to frolic, to delight, to muse.

    Visit Katie Caron and Martha Russo's websites.

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    → Read more interviews with ceramic artists and search through our featured artists.

    Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine with help from Miruna Pria.

  • Interview with John Roloff, exhibiting artist at the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition

    Interview with John Roloff, 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 ten exhibiting artists, plus with the curator. At the end of July, we will also send a special newsletter to our subscribers. Subscribe here to receive the special edition of our newsletter.

    Ceramics Now Magazine: You use many materials and different techniques when making your works. What did you learn from the process?

    John Roloff: The earth materials (and photo images) used in The Sea Within The Land/Laramide were based upon paleogeographic research of the site.  A lot was learned about the previous landscapes and geologic materials/processes involved and their relationship to the current central Colorado landscape.  These materials (as are all) have many narratives or stories that can be viewed through one lens or another.  The lens I am most familiar with or knowledgeable is geologic transformation, history and process which informs my relationship to the materials and how I might work with or present them.  For the mold/casting sculptural element, I used a variation of an unfired rammed earth process, this state of materiality is copasetic with the very low degrees of lithification and metamorphism of the sediments relative to the geologic and landscape concepts used in the project.  I often look for analogs to natural processes for how I might interpret how to work with  materials or sites.

    John Roloff, The Sea Within the Land/Laramide, Landscape Projection, Seascape Structure 31


    Ceramics Now Magazine: What’s your connection to the sea, to the magic and eternal world of the ocean? Your work The Sea Within The Land/Laramide approached this matter.

    John Roloff : A basic idea of this project is that in many ways the ocean and the land are analogs of each other, so in this regard the land is also magic and co-eternal as well as co-mutable and co-evolving.  I think it is really beautiful that much of the land in the middle of North America was the result of marine depositional processes, sediments slowly settling or precipitating and consolidating on the sea floor.  Two selections from poems of the poet Gary Snyder have been very inspirational to me for many years have resurfaced and found their way into recent lectures:

            Red ooze of the North Pacific — only shark’s teeth and the
            earbones of whales.  An endless mist of skeletons, settling
            to the ocean floor.

    (Japan First Time Around, “Anita Maru” at sea, 7: V: 56, Earth House Hold, 1957), and


            sea-bed strata raised and folded,
                 granite far below.
            warm quiet centuries of rain
                 (make dark red tropic soils)….

    (What Happened Here Before, Turtle Island, 1974)


    In the Colorado area during the Cretaceous, the Tethys Sea, an incursion from the south (now Gulf of Mexico region) merged with the Mowrey Sea from the north to create what is called the Interior Seaway, rich with Mesozoic dramas of life and death and an ongoing erosion of the surrounding land sending clays, silts and sands into the sea, later to be further eroded by human agency in the Holocene and transformed into brick, paving, artifacts and re-deposited as the Denver built environment, which is currently undergoing erosion… the cycle continues..


    Ceramics Now Magazine: Why did you took this challenge of working mainly on site-specific projects? Do you find it easy to express yourself through the openness of the space, rather than to an exhibition space?

    John Roloff : For me these spaces are really the same space, it is difficult for me to see architecture (or space definition in certain terms) without considering the origin of the materials of the building itself and some relationship to the space it encompasses.  A building for me is a landscape made out of previous landscapes, which has an effect on the space, either of the building or its paleogeographic history – how that transformation (from one landscape to another) occurred through this lens, is the product of generations of climatic systems, earth forces and human agency to name a few  (see question 2 above).  This attitude, I believe, is a basic extrapolation of more familiar site-based strategies.  In this sense it is not really a question of ease or expediency more of perception, extrapolation and intrinsic relationships.

    John Roloff, Landscape Projection, SeaLand 2B

    Ceramics Now Magazine: How long it takes to make a project like this? (ex: for the Overthrown exhibition)

    John Roloff: Gwen Chanzit, curator of Overthrown, visited my studio in mid- 2010 and invited me to so site research and photography in early December of that year to further develop a basic idea I was interested in to work the the central Colorado landscape and my previous knowledge of what is called the Cretaceous Interior Seaway, an broad incursion of the ocean into the middle of the North American continent about 90 million years ago and that some of the current landscape would be made of sediments deposited at that time.  The themes of Sea/Land, Land/Sea, Sea/Sea and Land/Land is intrinsic to my work.  As in this project, 6-9 months are typical due to an often complex array of research, gestation and implementation.
         

    Ceramics Now Magazine: Where can we find you and your works in the next future? What are your plans?

    John Roloff: I am working on several projects, one hopefully for the Exporatorium in San Francisco when it re-opens along waterfront, a couple of public art projects in the works for many years in Oakland, CA and Minneapolis, MN, that may come to fruition this year or next and a lot of on-going research for other works.  One thing I am hoping will happen in a panel/conversation for NCECA Seattle 2012 with John Delaney, a scientist  from the University of Washington, working on an amazing project that includes a huge array of real-time sensors gathering data on the active Juan deFuca plate off the coast of Washington – forces driving the evolution of the North Western North American landscape, the eruption of Mt St. Helens, growth and potential activity of Mt. Ranier and other Cascade Range volcanoes, etc.  

    John Roloff, Landscape Projection, SeaLand 3B

    Ceramics Now Magazine: We somehow find your works complementing Ai Weiwei’s works. You are both searching for/ and trying to learn about the human’s conditions, but you are approaching this through our Earth’s history and throught nature (unlike Ai Weiwei’s political themes). What do you think about the Ai Weiwei’s detention? (the recent crackdown on artists)

    John Roloff : For me the situation of his detention in China is first unfortunate on many levels that one could easily imagine and be sympathetic with.  At, I think, a more important level, I am interested in his situation and the relationship of risk, artistic process and the formulation of questions of our time, whether political, ecological, perceptual and/or existential.  In a way it seems natural that Ai Weiwei would be challenged by his government as his work is challenging many ideas including political ones of theirs.  My thought is to see his situation is a very broad context critical to the asking, visualization and engagement with fundamental questions for our time as well as the role of the artist in society/nature.

    ——————————————————————-

    John Roloff is a visual artist who works conceptually with site, process and natural systems. He is known primarily for his outdoor kiln/furnace projects done from the late 1970’s to the early 1990’s as well as other large-scale environmental and gallery installations investigating geologic and natural phenomena. He studied geology at UC Davis, Davis, CA with Professor Eldridge Moores and others during the formative days of plate tectonics in the mid-1960’s. Subsequently, he studied art with Bob Arneson and William T. Wiley also at UC Davis in the late 1960’s. In addition to numerous environmental, site-specific installations in the US, Canada and Europe, his work has been included in exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art, UC Berkeley Museum, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Smithsonian Institution, Photoscene Cologne and the Venice Architectural and Art Biennales. He has received 3 artists visual arts fellowships from the NEA, a Guggenheim Foundation fellowship and a California Arts Council grant for visual artists. He is represented by the Lance Fung Gallery in NY and Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco. He is currently a Professor of Sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute.

    "My work is a examination of psychological and conceptual relationships between humanity and nature, materiality and process, often evoking a poetic interplay between primal and scientific conditions.  This exploration was inspired in the work of 1970’s through the early 1990’s by qualities of the sublime evoked by the geology and natural dynamics of the North American landscape.  Since the mid-1990’s other, related issues, particularly structural and systemic relationships between landscape, architecture and technology, have increasingly characterized the work."

    Visit the artist’s website.

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    Interview by Vasi Hirdo - Editor of Ceramics Now Magazine

  • » Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition feature

    This month we’re making a special feature for the Overthrown: Clay Without Limits exhibition, which is on view June 11 through September 18, 2011 at the Denver Art Museum.

    It’s the first feature made by Ceramics Now Magazine, and includes images from the Overthrown exhibition and interviews with 10 of the exhibiting artists, plus with the curator of the exhibition. At the end of July, we will also send a special newsletter. Subscribe here to our monthly newsletter.

    NAVIGATION (HOW TO):

    About Overthrown - About the Overthrown feature on Ceramics Now Magazine
    /Overthrown - Images from the exhibition (in High Quality).
    /Overthrown_Interviews - Interviews with 10 of the exhibiting artists.
    /nameofthe_artist (ex: /Linda_Sormin) - Images with the works of the artist you’re looking for.

    Interviews (many will be published at the end of July):

    Gwen F. Chanzit - The curator of the exhibition.

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