Place is a unifying inspiration for four clay artists who will make up Studio &’s newest exhibit “Afar: Clay Beyond Boundaries.”
Works by Rebecca Barfoot, Lisa Pedolsky, Jonah Thomas and Heesoo Lee – all who have Durango connections – represent a collection of pieces that connect the artist to inspiring experiences, and their pieces take on the colors, shapes and ideas from them.
Rebecca Barfoot recently completed an artist in residency in Breckenridge – her second stint there after being invited to return. Her time there continued to be influenced by a previous residencies in Arctic Greenland and Denmark.
“As my current art investigates larger global issues of climate, environment and our collective relationship to the planet, I’m seeking to break down that much larger – and often overwhelming – narrative to a human scale. ‘Can I find an intimate and personal access point to all this and how do I translate that in a way that’s accessible in my work? How can I create connection with and in my work?’” Barfoot said. “What I keep coming back to, as the story of life on Earth reaches a critical juncture, is my understanding that planetary healing has everything to do with our relationship to ourselves.”
Pedolsky asks some of the same questions after her experience in South America. Pedolsky spent November at the Centro de Arte Curaumilla on the Pacific coast of Chile after receiving funding from the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts.
“The location and design of the center were enough to inspire, but there was so much more,” Pedolsky said. “With seasons in reverse south of the equator, we were coming into summer, and yet the climate I encountered was entirely unexpected. Fierce winds blew clouds in and out, and the color of the ocean changed throughout the day from aqua to deep blue to gray, reflecting the state of the sky. Temperatures rose and dropped radically from morning to night. The newness of my environment, including fantastic and unfamiliar flora and birds, heightened my skills of observation.”
Pedolsky said she was “forever changed” by her time abroad.
“A shape based upon the pod forms that have been in my visual vocabulary for quite some time has now morphed, becoming more boat-like – a nod to the vessels of my watery world south of the equator,” she said. “I’ve resurrected a vibrant palette of glazes, reflecting the colors of the sky, sea and vegetation that I encountered in Chile.”
Heesoo Lee uses her work in porcelain as a canvas on which she paints landscapes, trees and flowers. A native of Korea, Lee said she paints in traditional Korean style but her art is “largely informed by western impressionist paintings.”
She recently completed her first-ever residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana. Exchanging knowledge, techniques and observing other artists’ personalities there helped Lee connect those experiences to her work.
Though Thomas has not done a residency, his work as a current graduate student at Arizona State University is not unlike them.
“I think what is unique about graduate school, like other residency and art-intensive programs, is the massive contemplation time and space you can devote to your work” he said. “If anything, I’ve produced less work this year, but everything I have created has been stronger for it.”
Thomas said his mind “feels jam-packed” because of his classes that are devoted to the chemistry of clay and glaze.
“With my work, I become completely absorbed by every detail,” he said. “Crafting the objects is only one-half of my process. The illustration and carvings that adorn my work provide the narrative. I revel in the imperfections and quirks of the human animal. It’s the joy of being human that I draw from when creating.
“I want to make objects that enrich our lives,” he said. “For me, the experience, the ritual, of preparing food and drink are as much an art form as the making of the objects we eat and drink from. The cup you drink a fine wine from should enhance the experience as much as the food you pair it with or the company you share it with.”