My work explores the curious complexities and contrasts that exist in personal relationships. My experiences as a mother, daughter, friend, and partner inspire playful and poignant imagery depicting the challenges and contrasts of human interaction.
My figurative sculptures depict both the joy and struggle of relationships, and the intense search for balance and purpose despite our human failings and fragility. Using clay as a sculptural material, I create detailed layers of meaning as my fingerprints literally become part of the surface texture. Playful and energetic figures emerge, their features blending animal and human characteristics to create a collective identity as they interact in complex narratives.
As a child, my Cherokee Grandpa would use animal characters in legends to explain nuances of human relationships, mysterious spiritual concepts, natural phenomena, and our essential connection to nature. As an art student, I discovered that numerous ancient civilizations shared similar mythologies, many recorded on ceramic artifacts. Our earliest civilizations appear to have turned to the female figure to visualize the mysterious and sacred complexities of humanity. These powerful forms and narratives inspire me, and resonant themes of fertility, sexuality, gender, connection to nature, and nurturing relationships are certainly relevant and even urgent in contemporary context.
I use clay as both a material and metaphor. Clay, when manipulated and fired to a high temperature, becomes an extremely permanent material with unparalleled resistance to heat and moisture. Ironically, it is equally fragile – clay is easily broken into shards if mishandled. But even broken, ceramic shards resist breakdown and can remain stable underground for thousands of years until emerging once again to reveal the identity of early civilizations. From the fingerprints of the maker to the provenance of the materials, the shards hold immense meaning and power and connect us to our ongoing human experience.
Water is an essential ingredient in clay; when added to clay, it gives the material plasticity- the ability to be manipulated and easily formed and textured. In the absence of water, clay becomes rigid, unmanipulable, and vulnerable to breakage. I use water imagery in my work as a visual metaphor to show the ebb and flow of nurturing relationships. I’ve moved through phases of pregnancy, birthing, nursing, constant caregiving, and domestic overload at impossibly slow speeds, only to be surprised by fast currents around the bend. Like navigators on a churning river, children grow and gain independence at rapid speed, and soon float off to pursue their own course, and the nurturer is left alone in the boat to contemplate the journey ahead. Ironically, with this loss comes a welcoming sense of freedom and potential for a redefined identity and new adventures ahead.
I am particularly drawn to nurturing narratives with complex intersections of gender, culture, social constructs, biases, and power, and how these themes reoccur in ancient and contemporary contexts. I am compelled to honor the ongoing struggle of our experience, but I want to balance the pain with the revelation of human resilience. I want to show the strength of women overcoming obstacles of dominance and marginalization to rise victoriously over oppression, and to show the most vulnerable and undervalued among us floating triumphantly towards freedom and justice and prosperity.
I appreciate the metaphoric nature of clay and the ironic tension that exists between fragility and permanence. My experiences as a daughter, mother, friend, partner, and teacher continue to inspire personal narratives about intimate relationships and our collective search for meaning as we navigate our current human experience.