Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mel's Late Summer Post

hey everybody,
hope you’re all enjoying the beginnings of fall! i'm going to post images from the early summer, the pots i made at anderson ranch. (sorry megan- you've seen these already). i don't have any images of what i made at haystack or what i’m doing now, and would like to complete some thoughts before i start putting those pots up. next time. i will say that i'm currently using this same basic decorating method, but with some improvements that come with more practice. i'm also making more complicated forms- pedestalled serving bowls and trays, teapots, and some stranger things too. its all sort of an expansion and variation on the theme you see here.
also, i'm not including a new version of the artist statement. i haven't rewritten it since the last round, but have been doing a lot of writing exercises. here are some of the things that have been recurring, and perhaps those of you who know me well will have something to say about them. i really hope so, anyway. :)
1. why am i driven to paint more domesticated animals, be they chickens or magpies? first of all, the animals themselves contain beautiful and hilarious lines. i enjoy drawing them. but there is something else, something i am really trying to articulate. it has something to do with how people interact with them (in real life, not on the pots), and how we both (humans and these animals) affect one another daily. but there is also something else, something more vague. it involves the confluence of nostalgia and possibility. i spent some time on a farm as a kid, and for some reason everything i came across while i was there really resonated with me. there are specific places and animals there that i often think about. for example, the green, rolling hills lined with white fencing and spotted with sheep used to give me a feeling that, ever since, i have searched for. the image itself is romantic and peaceful, and at the same time it fills me with an urge to run through this never-ending, beautiful landscape, to see what is over the next hill. its as if the romance and nostalgia of the past and the hopeful possibility of the future both exist in one moment. i think the chickens and cows somehow represent that feeling for me. does this make sense to anyone? if so, how can i articulate this? i KNOW its important.
2. gender. i love to make strong pots, and to be strong physically. i move the clay quickly and aggressively, kind of like a man. since i've moved away from the woodfire, i have begun pinching and painting, which feel very delicate and feminine to me. i'm using lavendar and pink. i like the tension between the decoration and the forms, in general. do you?
3. can a pot be both adventurous and comfortable? that is what i want to make.
4. where i am in this moment. the taming of my life and human life in general, as well as animals, and land.
thanks, ladies!


critial ceramics said...

Mel --
Hi, Megan here.

I have a lot to say and am going to attempt to say it clearly and
concisely. Here goes:

The ideas of comfort and adventure embody a genuine sense of 'Melness' for me. Thinking about those ideas is helping me to better understand your pots. Both of these ideas are very personal -- what makes you feel comfortable, and what makes for a good adventure? Maybe you could make a series of very comfortable pots, and a series of adventurous pots, and look at what elements would work well in combination.

In developing your work I suggest thinking a lot about the relationship of the 2-dimensional surface with the 3-d form. I've been thinking about some artists who use imagery on a 3-d surface that might help to look at:
Jason Walker, Sergei Isopov, Rudy Autio, Bernadette Curran.

From working at the HB studio, I have come to believe that people often enter work from the 2-d -- they read it first and it affects them directly, while the 3-d form tends to be more subtle or subconscious. Because your forms are complicated or manipulated, they do draw more attention.

Many of the pots seem to contain the animals, and some are shaped like a cage (like the square rabbit dish, or the piece with the coil around it that you showed me this summer). The animals are often solitary, stationary and sometimes a bit sad. The pots are holding them but also restraining them. The action and emotion of your animals conveys a lot of information.

Here is a list of questions or ideas about the relationship of the surface to form:
What if part of the animal emerged into 3-D (ie a wing tip or paw)
What if the 3-dimensional form depicted something different from the 2-d (a 3-d chicken holding a bunny)
What if you had sets of pots, where some animals were being tame and some were free?
Groups of animals, animals interacting?
What if the pots felt really comfortable, and the imagery adventurous, or the opposite?

A few thoughts on gender -- as you know I have been thinking about this issue as well. To me, the pinching of the clay does not read as overtly feminine. Instead, the manipulation of the clay brings to mind the domestication of earth --plowing, furrowing, digging. It feels worked -- but not really masculine or feminine -- especially in contrast to work that is highly decorative and feminine, like Kristin Keiffer or Allison McGowan. In thinking about this, I keep remembering your birthday party when Cheryl gave you clothes from Ross. You are definitely not 'girly' -- but I also don't see you as being 'manly' -- I see you as a very strong female who likes to nurture.
Anyway -- if this is something that interests you in your work, I would suggest pushing it further -- break out the lipstick and doilies. But I think it also is worth really investigating what being female means to you, and what aspects of femininity you identify with.

As far as issue #1 from your writings-- I know the type of feeling you are describing but I don't know that I can help you describe it. I relate to it in many things I am thinking about now -- I feel drawn to make work that I believe would have given me happiness, satisfaction or comfort as a child. My work provides me with room for daydreaming. And imagery that I seek out gives me both a sense of structure (comfort) and freedom. The animals and the hills seems to play similar roles for you.

I suggest you keep thinking about why the farm and the animals were (and are) so important and then try to convey that through the way your animals act, and the way they relate to their surroundings (the pots). Do the animals represent companionship, safety, communing with nature, sustenance? To me, currently they say more about you living in Hershey than they do romance and possibility...

I think that you have a lot of great material and abilities to work with. Can't wait to see the teapots....
let me know if there is anything I have said that you would like me to expand on, I'm sure I could have more to say. :)

Kip said...

Hi Mel… First off, I have to say that a lot of what I’m seeing and reading here is really working well for me. You clearly have a direction and are honing a technique – it seems you have a solid base from which to explore. Your artist statement captures a lot about who you are and why you’re working the way you do - it compliments your work and gives me a better understanding of what inspires and motivates you.

I can strongly feel the daydreaming quality in your pots. You have playful, loose, gesture that seems very natural and free. I can see how pinching these out must be quite meditative – a great place for the mind to wander. Something that would be interesting to know more about, perhaps in your statement, is why you choose to use pots as your mode of expression (and functional ones at that). I could see a connection to the idea of “the domestication of life” that you talked about. Ultimately, your explanations of your method of decoration seemed strong, but I was left wanting more about your forms and what informs that aspect of your work.

From a technical standpoint, there is a lot I am drawn to in these pots. In particular, the rhythm you achieve with your repetitive pinching - I can just imagine your hands working methodically over the clay. As a result, you feel very present in this work to me. The teacup is my favorite – no part goes unnoticed or missed. Have you tried any other types of handles on these cups? I see how you’re tying in the smooth belly of the pot with the smooth handle, but I’d love to see you try something handbuilt. I think you could tie in some pinching and still keep the handle comfortable and connected with what is going on in the body. In the last image, I feel a little less of a connection between the rim and the bowl – perhaps the foot could carry some similar gesture? This pot feels a little less balanced to me than the others do.

Another thing I would love to see is groupings of pots. It would be interesting to see how that changes the feeling of your work and how the animals could change. Perhaps they could interact somehow? Similarly to how you connected the slip with the bare clay, you could extend the line of drawing from one pot to the next. I could see how your idea of landscape could be developed even more through groupings of pots... I am so excited to see your teapots (and cups! And saucers!)!

Oh, I almost forgot about “gender”. I guess I’m not really seeing the masculine in the way you work the clay, but I definitely feel the strong. And for me, rather than a tension between the decoration and the forms, I feel a real sense of harmony. Like you’re treating the clay and the drawings in the same way. I do feel a tension in the light vs dark, however.

Okay, I am off to bed. I'm still thinking about your first question - I'll try to post again, soon.

Really awesome work, Mel. I want more!

Kip said...

Hey Mel -- Speaking of Bernadette Curran (good idea, Megan!), she will be doing a two day workshop here where I work pre nceca. If you want to come out a little early you have a place to stay! It also looks like the artstream is going to be parked here at PCA. Yippie! I can't wait for all of this clay!

critial ceramics said...

hi mel monica typing

critial ceramics said...

my first thought was that i would really love to see your images on tile or paper. why do you choose to put them on clay? what does working on a 3D surface do for your images/drawing? i spent 3 weeks looking at your work and reading your words, without knowing how to comment on it as a whole so today i am going to comment just on the work i hope to comment on your statement later. the clay body, yellow glaze, and black line color combo seems a bit overdone/obvious and a little boring, i love the pink in the mug and new use of lavender.

critial ceramics said...

the bull on the plate is exciting to me because it feels like it could charge offf. the rabbit and bird feel safe/motionless on their bowls. i love the why you manipulate the clay in such a physical way and that is so clearly reflected in the work for all to see.

critial ceramics said...

i will write more but must sleep, some many dogs to feed in am

critial ceramics said...

Hi Mel, Martina.
Sorry for the lateness, i'm swimming up here in the modernism/post modernism debate, but happy with the few pots i have manged to find the time to make...

that being said, i am finding critiquing everyones work a greater challenge as we move forward with this. It's like we're getting into the nitty gritty in some ways.

On the questions of animals and farm life. i feel that the relationship of animals to humans is a very different idea to that of nostalgia and the tension of past and future.

i agree with some of the other posts that this could possibly be addressed more directly in how the animals are handled on the pots and the shape of the pots themselves. Megan's suggestion of the chicken holding a bunny leads me to suggest also looking at akio takamori (just looking online i couldn't find the one's i had in my head, so may need to look for some older work, i feel like it was more autio like...) who does flattened figurative work in which the line quality leads to defining the form. it think this direction could be interesting and also ties with kip's comment on your choice of functional pots for expression.

The question of gender is something i think most female potters consider (do men?). I'm confused about where you see the tension if both the color choice and surface treatment are both felt as feminine to you.

Your brushwork is confident and aggressive, unfortunately masculine qualities. I look to the pinching. While it offers a certain hand dynamic to a thrown pot, i wonder if it may be getting too mannered. it does hold a meditative quality, but i like seeing it broken and returned to like on the cup and wonder if on the squared form, there could be more tension if all sides aren't treated the same. Have you played with other ways to shift the clay, perhaps in greater swaths with paddles and ribs?

I am having alot of fun playing with color at the moment, and am realizing the depth possible with the slip application as far as color goes, especially with colored glazes over. Similar to Monica, i would encourage you to play with color some more, triaxial blends are great to find a palette that will serve to make your colors more personal.

While i may have focused on the constructive part of criticism, i have to say that i continue to enjoy your work, esp. the loose lively quality in the brush. It will be a while before we see it again,

all the best, martina

critial ceramics said...

Mel (Juliane posting)

Wow, I read through everyone's comments -- what a great tool this is for a group of artists to talk about each others' work! So, as I am jumping into this without as much history, please forgive me if I repeat a few things that may have been discussed before.

I responded well to the cup form, fascinated with all the detail with the pinching, the foot detail, etc. However, upon looking at it longer, the cup begins to get a bit busy. The cup from bottom to top reads yellow, red clay, yellow band that alligns with yellow handle, then to the thin strip of red at the top. That in and of itself is a lot of visual dialogue! With the 3 (or 4?) chickens painted atop, the cup really keep the eyes busy. It would be nice to be suprised with an image at the bottom...I guess I was looking for more of a mark that related to the birds on the cup sides. The cup's form without the painting could stand on its own; all together it might be stronger with a single image or perhaps two. How important is narrative in your work? Or are you more drawn to the painting process or patterns of repeated painted animals?

Given the comments you made about your childhood and feeling of expansiveness and the animals that occupy that, do you think about the inside and outside realms of your forms and what or how images occupy those areas?

I also thought a bit about pallete. Your color sense is fun, but not as adventurous as it could be. A lot of the pastels read as a similar tone, and then you have the black painting line and the red clay. What happens if you accented a few areas with some bolder color in addition?

The stacks of bowls with the bird in the tree were easier on my eye. I could more easily focus on the swoop of your brushstrokes and the animal.

The bowl with the pinched rim seems intriguing, but a bit top heavy. I could see that kind of rim doing really well on a pie plate or casserole, a heavier form. Or, perhaps a more stocky pinched foot would balance the rim a bit.

I am going nuts responding since I haven't seen your work in so long! It is exciting, hope you don't mind!

Some ideas:
*Faceting the forms (different small scale images on each facet that tell a story, lend the idea of time? like a bunny consuming a the end all the facelts, he's back to where he started)
*Remembering your large scale book that you made for you wanted viewers to become involved. Do you feel this with your pots too? Could you get some ideas for decorating or creating illustrative borders on your pots that resonate with children's books/illustration?
*Oribe ware, your work reminds me of that a bit
*Slip trailing -- adding raised lines/dots to delineate your images
*Large platters, larger bowls...more room to explore painting and the scale of the painted images?

Mel, you have some great ideas in all areas, statment/personal, painting, and form. Now it seems like a wonderful adventure to keep exploring where they all meet! Good work!