The Question That Devours

Working In Clay

I choose clay to be the raw visceral material for my work, because its roots are wrapped around my past.  I have always linked the materiality of flesh and the memory of it with clay.  It has an incredible sensitivity to touch.  Not only is the inert nature of the material alluring with its ties to the primitive and raw, but its voice spans a wide range of sensual, violent, and careless textural possibilities.  It is intimately tied to our natural surroundings, cultural history, and a direct record of my physical presence.  Every intimacy with the material is preserved.

Given the nature of the clay, these pieces involve a tremendous amount of effort, requiring roughly 800 to 2,000 lbs of wet clay each to rough in and  then take several weeks to a month to hollow out. In order to move the mass around, I use my whole body: striking it with chunks of wood, digging into the surface with the palms of my hands and my nails, carving away 20 pound pieces with wire, and slamming it back onto the surface. This massing in has to be done quickly, and it wears me out.  I work in cycles with pieces like this – pounding away for 20 minutes, and then sitting quietly and looking, making small touches.

By the time I successfully bring a piece to its final stages, I have spent approximately 1/8 of my time creating the form, and the remaining 7/8 of the time preserving it.  It is a strange process.  As I am hollowing the sculpture, piece by piece, that empty space inside becomes one of the most intense focal points for my thoughts about the conceptual image, as well as my relationship with them.  I follow each curve and mark in the reverse, thinking about their meaning, and rereading my visual notes.  I like to hum into these dark closed interiors, listening to and feeling the deep vibrant magnification of my voice distorted in answer. I think about closing myself in, slipping them on like skins.  I imagine being enfolded within a wild hare, ears laid back, body tensed… watching.