Cynthia Lahti

Cynthia Lahti creates artworks that are visually alluring and curious, despite their overt imperfections and sometimes-humble materials. Inspired by objects and images, both historical and contemporary, her creations reflect her belief that even the smallest artifact can evoke the most powerful feelings. Her art practice, which encompasses drawing, collage, altered books and sculpture, is influenced by human artifacts from ancient times to the present, as well as by personal experiences and emotions.

In 2013 she was awarded the Hallie Ford Fellowship for Artists, the Bonnie Bronson Fellowship in 2015 and the Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Individual Support Grant in 2017. Her artworks are in many collections including the Portland Art Museum, Boise Art Museum, Reed College, the Columbia University Library and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Over 50 of her sculptures and drawings are included in the feature film Showing Up which will be released in the Spring of 2023.

Visit Cynthia Lahti’s website and Instagram page.

Featured work

Selected works, 2022

Cynthia Lahti Ceramics

Sitka Residency, 2016

Cynthia Lahti Ceramics

I grew up in Portland Oregon and have always been excited by the emotional intensity and depth of the artwork created there. I come from a creative family, my parents both embodied the fierce spirit necessary to thrive in this land. In their three daughters they encouraged an excitement and curiosity for making things, as well as a thirst for knowledge. The wild environments of Oregon became my second home, as family explorations took us all over the state. These experiences of being in nature influence me to this day, I feel a strong connection to the land and the truths it contains.

I have spent my entire life creating powerful works of art. Encompassing drawing, collage, altering books and ceramic sculpture, my art is influenced by human artifacts from ancient times to the present, as well as by personal experiences. The belief that even the smallest artifact can evoke the most powerful feelings is central to everything I make, drawing inspiration from objects and images, both historical and contemporary, that have the potential to reflect beyond themselves. I seek to force a deeper explanation of reality, to facilitate a connection with a larger human experience by examining the beauty and chaos of the world.

My goal is always to express the depth and complexities of what it is to be a human being, living inside a human body. Human experience is both tragedy and comedy, alive with deeply felt desires and expectations that may or may not be fulfilled. Life constantly teeters between hope and dismay, pride and shame, beauty and ugliness. My work—in content and form—explores the discrepancy between surface and substance, expectation and outcome. I push the expressive possibilities of overt imperfections and sometimes humble materials. Bodily proportions follow their own expressive needs. Marks and glazes do not shy from smudges, cracks, blisters. I have developed a practice of art making that not only embraces error and chance, but is, moreover, unusually at ease with itself. The cracks and crumples in my artworks are, if somewhat ironically, an expression of a deep self-assurance in my artistic process.

Cynthia Lahti’s profile was originally published in Ceramics Now on August 15, 2011.