Claybodies: Reinterpreting the Figure
The extraordinary flourishing of ceramic art today in all its manifestations raises interesting speculation about what has propelled this rejuvenation of an ancient art form. There has never been an actual hiatus in the history and use of clay as art-making material, and the imaging of the body, as old as man’s prehistory, has always been replete with references to the physical, spiritual, psychological and iconic significance of the human form. Clay, however, demands direct involvement of the shaper’s hands, unlike other modes of sculpture where tools, whether simple or complex, must mediate between the artist and the work. Perhaps in an era defined by technology it is deeply satisfying to be so connected to a material which is essentially earth.
It is reassuring and stimulating to note that the artists in this exhibition create sculpture as variable in concept and process as any other contemporary art form. Claybodies has tried to stay relatively close to the human figure in the art selected. The human body, so mobile in life, becomes immobilized in fired clay as ceramic. Unfired clay, however, malleable and capable of both additive and subtractive manipulation, allows the sculptor to explore infinite variations of form and surface. Unlike other sculptural materials, clay and glazes can be in solid or liquid form, as well as somewhere between, depending on their physical and chemical state. It is the heat of the kiln that ultimately makes them solid and durable.
Within the thematic parameters of “the figure,” the work in Claybodies is individualistic and idiosyncratic. Some are sculptures of entire bodies; others use a part of the body--often, but not inevitably--the head, to essentialize the human presence. Surface textures may be gritty or smooth; some retain the matte, earthen colors of clay while others present colorful glazed surfaces and elaborate detailed imagery. All require extraordinary technical skill and personal vision for the artist to realize his or her response to this complicated body we all share.