Cross MacKenzie Gallery is pleased to present “Nucleus” an exhibition of new ceramic sculpture by the prolific and compelling California based artist, David Hicks. This is his third solo show at our gallery.
“I am still digging in the dirt to understand my attraction to the agricultural,” the artist says of this new body of work. Though Hicks continues in these botanic and organic themes, his compositions have opened up and become less dense – no longer hanging down with the force of gravity from vertical wires. The new work is metaphorically blossoming.
“I work with clay to create an array of graceful, sensuous, organic forms. These pieces are made through a variety of hand-building methods such as slab-building, coiling, pinching, and forming with molds. Rarely relying on glaze, I use textures, stains, and colored clay to add visual and tactile interest. I am drawn toward neutral earth tones that complement rather than distract from my intricate sculptural vessels.
The curving lines and interplay of light and shadow in my work generate an illusion of movement, giving each piece an almost lifelike quality. A successful piece is one that begs to be touched as well as explored visually.” Elizabeth Shriver
Ceramics Now Magazine: Growing up near the ocean around natural diversity and continuous change, you have developed a very finite line of work. Do you visualize your work from the very beginning?
Debra Fleury: I spend a lot of time sketching and planning. My sketches can be very specific and architectural, or very loose and gestural. But ultimately, I am an intuitive thinker. I rely on feeling and instinct in my artwork. When I sit down with clay the careful preparation is put aside in favor of the moment. Once I have the clay in my hands, I am often swept away by the possibilities I encounter as the clay begins to express its properties.
Do you remember the first ceramic piece that you created? How did it look like and how do you feel about your evolution as a ceramic artist?
I remember the first piece I created that had an impact on me. It was a little pinch pot, a half sphere and nicely formed. It was so perfect, likely the best I had made to date. I wondered what would happen if I dropped it while it was still malleable. I decided to indulge this impulse and I let my little pinch pot fall. The perfectly round rim became this very interesting, offset elliptical shape in response to the force of the impact. After it was fired it retained the mark of that force. It looked plastic, but it was solid.
This experience helped me recognize the approach that I wanted to take with this medium — to enjoy the process and avoid feeling that the work is precious. The visual aspect of the work is compelling to me, but the process is the lure.
Tidal, 2011, Dark Stoneware, Porcelain and glass. Fired to cone 6, wall installation. Dimensions variable, average size per individual piece is approximately 10x10x8 cm - View her works
When constructing a new piece, you are using different materials such as clay, glass and glaze. What challenges you the most by combining these materials?
I love the unknown. I love being surprised by the materials and I love experimenting. Combining clay bodies with different shrink rates, adding glass, or using glaze in an unconventional way are a few of the methods I use when courting disaster or looking for insight. I push the materials toward something that I think will be interesting, but I never really know what will happen. Opening the kiln after a firing can be like meeting the work for the first time.
Ceramics Now Magazine: You are presenting yourself as a sculptor even though you have a BFA in Ceramics. What are you currently working on?
Jenni Ward: Although I’ve been educated in all aspects of ceramics; pottery, functional hand-building or sculpture, I’ve chosen to focus on abstract sculptural ceramics. I feel that if I say I’m a ceramicist, people either don’t know what I’m talking about or they assume I throw pots, so I feel that introducing myself as a sculptor who works with clay is a more precise description of the work I create. Right now I’m working with organic forms that have holes cut into them and those forms have other ceramics pieces that are trapped inside. This process of trapping forms has manifested itself into multiple series of work. I’m conceptually playing with the balance between trapping and protecting an object and simultaneously exploring abstract ways to express that in clay.
Nest Series IV, 2010, ceramic & high temperature, wire, 12” x 10” 8” - View her works
What triggered the passion for ceramics in you?
I have always worked with clay, my parents still have the first coil pot I made as a kid and I just never stopped working with clay. I was lucky enough to of had an in depth ceramics program in my high school. That exposure gave me the experience to explore clay and know that it was going to be my focus at the university level. I also really love the process of working with clay; each stage that you go through from a soft malleable material to a fired finished piece offers the chance that everything can go wrong at any step in the process. Having the ability to balance control over the clay and letting what happens happen is always a battle for me that I’m very attracted to. I’m constantly learning new techniques or possibilities with clay whether it’s through taking a workshop or seeing another artist at work. Clay is a very basic, primitive material that can be used in such varied and technological ways; it’s a constant learning process.
“Through creating and teaching others how to make “Treepots” and “Tectonic Sculptures,” I have dedicated my artistic efforts in ceramics to exploring life and the irony of renewal through death. Trees are the primary subject of my work and human emergence is its’ theme. Through this creative work I engage the interrelationship between humanity and nature.
I focus on trees because I have a natural love of them from my youth. As a child I spent my summers with my brother roaming the woods of northern Illinois, and as an adolescent I spent them backpacking the forests of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Observing the tree excites my creative expression because it demonstrates the promise of renewal in the events of birth, the processes of aging, and the inevitability and promise of new life through death and decay. In this way life continuously takes on evolved and more beautiful forms through both creation and evolution. Both are proven simultaneously in the cycle of life. Evidence of this is shown most brilliantly to me in the life cycle of trees and I speak of it most effectively through my art in the medium of clay.” David Gilbaugh