It is important to me that the sculptures I make should have a visual and social relationship to the place where I live. At the same time, I believe that the techniques I use should make reference to the journey I have taken as a ceramist. I began working with clay in East Texas. Then clay sent me on a journey across my country, to Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Italy, Norway, and finally back to Texas. There were often subtle and sometimes radical differences in the ways that artists worked with clay in all of these places. Even though we all share a similar toolbox of techniques, we refine our finished work according to different aesthetic goals. I think this is because our eyes filter our environments based on our own histories and experiences in the places where we are rooted.
After making work in places that looked very different from my home, I realized that my own understanding of technical refinement was informed by the Texas landscape where I grew up. There seemed to be a relationship between my perception of a finished work and my experience of the landscape where I spent the first half of my life. When I returned to Texas, I decided that I wanted to make work that had a visual and social origin in my community. Yet I knew my work would carry visual markers from the places that I had visited and worked. I found myself in a conundrum as I wondered what a sculpture inspired by a small region would look like if the person who made it was influenced by multiple places.
It would be impossible for me to write here all of the traces of my journey that I believe are evident in the ways that I am currently working with clay, but I am going to describe one that has become very important to me. The way I am using glaze in my current sculptures goes back to a week in Taiwan when I worked with a potter in his studio helping him glaze pots. He used glaze like it was an object. In the kiln the glaze would run off the pot and all over the kiln shelf; thus the glaze itself would redefine the shape of the pot. He explained to me that the glaze documented his interaction with the pot and the fire. I understood that this way of glazing connected his work to the Japanese potters who have had an influence on Taiwanese ceramics. Now, when I encourage my glazes to run I am mapping the connection from that experience in Taiwan to my education and experiences as a ceramist in the United States.
For several years my sculptures have been about my experience of the broad American “place,” and more recently they have also been about specific local Texas places near where I live. My sculptures are conglomerate objects that are composed of a variety of cast nerikomi porcelain forms. The nerikomi patterns and colors give the surface of my sculptures an orderly structure that relates to the geometry of the agricultural fields and cityscapes from the region where I live. Each form is designed to represent a physical or emotional aspect of a real object, body, or plant. Some forms are literal representations, and others are altered by memory and perception. Thick translucent masses of glaze create a haze of bleeding color that unites the numerous parts of the sculpture into a single unit that represents the experience of a place.