Elaine Buss is a multimedia artist whose primary focus is ceramic sculptures and installations. Her work explores ambiguity and the nondescript, specifically in relation to the sensory, ineffable, and intangible experience of inhabiting a human body. Elaine currently serves as Foundation Faculty at Kansas City Art Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. She earned an MFA at Ohio State University (Studio Art, 2018) and a BFA at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (Ceramics, 2010). In 2019 she was awarded the Ceramics Monthly Emerging Artist Award. Her metaphorical approach to materials has garnered multiple recognitions; highlights include the Inspiration Grant (ArtsKC, 2022), Best in Show at the International MFA Exhibition (University of Montana, 2018), The International Award for Visual and Performing Arts (Ohio State, 2016), and an ArtistInc Fellowship (Mid-America Arts Alliance, 2015). Elaine exhibits internationally and her work is held in collections such as Honos Art (Rome, Italy), Belger Collection (Kansas City, MO), Baggs Library (Columbus, OH), and C.R.E.T.A.Rome (Rome, Italy).
To create my forms, I decontextualize historical utilitarian objects. My references include ancient grinding stones, water pipes, vertical loom weights, arches, and building fragments, among others. Anthropological sources provide a place of empathy with past humans and a way to understand my own humanity more thoroughly. I choose objects that reveal direct logic, touch, or process and then use the same visual language in my own forms. The resulting sculptures are not meant to allude to any specific origin or culture, but rather remain anonymous and elusive.
My forms are met with an experimental, alchemical approach to melting ceramic raw materials together in the kiln, such as glass frits, metallic oxides, and minerals. I push the boundaries between glaze, clay, and how a ceramic object should be “finished”. In my material combinations, I achieve haptic qualities that are familiar, yet mysterious and unplaceable. There is an otherness that feels indiscernible, and I am fascinated by the space between knowing and searching.
Floating between particular objects and ambiguously referential forms, I embrace the nondescript. I find mystery to be one of the most compelling emotions, and I try to arrive at a sense instead of a certainty in my work. It is humbling to be reminded that there is still so much beyond our empirical grasp. The ambiguous forms that I create relate to my own ineffable experience as a human; they assure me that it’s ok to exist in the space of the indeterminate. If my work can gesture towards, but not tell secrets or collapse into solidity, then I have opened up the space for experience.