Narrative Ceramics : Early Work

some thoughts about my Narrative Ceramics : Early Work (1987-1990)

Early in my art career, as a painter / illustrator, I turned to clay searching for a material for making three-dimensional paintings. The visual vocabulary I was developing at the time was so dense, it was meant to be read. Sgraffito zigzags, arrows and dotted lines filled the space hieroglyphically, often layered as a text and telling tales of human tragedy in a sometimes comic way. I also began using silhouettes, influenced by the visual short hand of book illustration and narrative art from many eras and artists. A silhouette was a useful tool, easy to project meaning onto and good for carrying archetypal motifs. Decades later, these storytelling devices continue to surface in my work in digital media.


I liked the disarming charm of the decorative object, that it could sneak into your unconscious with its homey nostalgia, then trick you into thinking about more complex social issues. After all, who could be afraid of sitting down to a pot of tea?  Or a coffee pot that discusses agricultural production and political violence?


(Pot o Fear)


 (Nicaraguan Coffee Break)

These slab-built vessels, quite flattened, exaggerate the issue of front vs back. A narrative device, like the turn of the page in a picture book, the turn of the pot… reveals another side to the story. I wanted to make pots that could narrate the neurotic nightmares of contemporary life, both large and small. The flat earthenware clay surfaces were canvases for layers of imagery, hand-painted with underglazes and sgraffito details. They would never function as a pots, their function was storytelling.

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