Form and Function Artist’s Reception to be held on Friday, June 23rd from 5:30 to 8pm. This will be the first art walk evening of the summer season.
I work in clay and mixed media to portray disjointed, isolated and often nonsensical narratives involving human and animal interactions. I view these bizarre narratives much like the contents of dreams, which can contain such strong, emotional narratives that the dreamer cannot dismiss them, even after waking. This is especially true when dealing with dreams spawned from anxiety and unease. Dreams can temporarily fulfill wishes, unlock the subconscious, exposing our inner desires, fears, frustrations and longing for the things we lack. Sleep is a time and space for susceptibility as well as for fantasy and imagination.
Through absurd arrangements and combinations of objects and materials, I investigate the ways that objects can change meaning depending on their context. By pairing confrontational imagery with familiar, objects I aim to attract and repel simultaneously. Surrealism is a great source of inspiration to me, because its artists combine figures with seemingly disparate objects in curious and confusing ways, evoking the union of dream states and reality. Often grotesque and inexplicable narratives reveal themselves within individual sculptures as well as from piece to piece, creating a series of encounters for the viewer that are both fascinating and disturbing. I employ humor in my work as a coping mechanism for the anxiety of every day life – finding humor in the inappropriate is a way to reappraise negative situations from alternative, less menacing angles. If we can laugh at a situation, our anxiety seems to subside, if only momentarily.
All my life, I’ve been a horsey girl and have gotten to do just about
everything on horseback, from foxhunting in Virginia to trailing cows in the Missouri Breaks of Montana; showing jumpers to starting colts. As a painter and sculptor my strength comes from depicting what I know: horses and cows, sheep, dogs — all the four-legged’s that I live with, and observe, daily. Cows and sheep both lend themselves to abstraction, because they have an endearing blockiness, and because they’re cud chewers, and they lie around a lot.
A horse is a lot of weight and power on perilously thin legs, balanced and beautiful, stalwart and frisky. It’s hard to better an honest horse.
Betsey Hurd received her BFA, cum laude, from the University of Montana, Missoula, MT, 1984, with concentrations in ceramics and drawing.
ALISSA MITTL received her BA in Studio Art and Art History from Florida State University in 2016. Originally from southwest Florida, her work has shown both locally and nationally. Mittl is currently a Ceramic Artist in Residence at the Mendocino Art Center in northern California.
“As a studio artist and art historian, my work is informed by both my inherent artistic motivations and visual representations throughout history. I am highly interested in the Symbolist and Surrealist movements of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth centuries. My work explores psychological notions of aversion and the inexplicable as well as ethereal concepts of the soul and emotion. I aim to conjure a response from the viewer, whether it be positive or negative, to connect with them on an intrinsic level. I encourage confrontation and introspection between viewers and my work, with the ultimate goal to illicit an understanding.”
A 2016-17 resident ceramic artist at the Mendocino Art Center, Alissa’s work centers on the surreal, inexplicable, and occasionally grotesque.
Process – I throw all my clay on a standard electric potter’s wheel with the exception of some hand-building for added functionality. The type of clay I use is low-fire earthenware. The food-safe glazes I use are also low-fire, meaning they flux at a much lower temperature that is typical for a wood-fired kiln situation. We use a brick, wood-fired kiln that is fueled by 4 foot lodge pole pine logs. We reach temperatures to cone 05 (1886 degrees Fahrenheit) by using an old farrier’s horseshoe forge blower to stoke the firebox.
Creative Inspiration – Simplicity drives my work and is the common mindset that continually inspires our work at Purcell Trading. My ceramics are inspired by creating a functional piece of art that mends well in a rustic or modern home décor. I consider hand-thrown ceramics to be both an art and a trade; beauty and functionality. My pottery allows both you and me to reconnect to a piece of the Earth in our daily rituals, grounding us in a process that has imperfections, yet is perfect in nature at the same time. ____________________________________
My ceramic sculptures reflect upon a variety of issues with a thoughtful, yet humorous and ironic tone. I am inspired by the potential of everyday common objects. I reproduce these objects primarily through slip-casting, and illustrate the surfaces with a variety of hand painted and screen printed imagery. My narratives explore topics ranging from fairy tales, urban mythologies, consumer culture, societal expectations, etiquette, and coming-of-age issues. Stylistically, much of my imagery is pulled from somewhat “dated” sources that I find represent an idealized time in society and advertising. Such gems include instructional guides, cookbooks, old advertisements, and old family photos. Beneath the shiny veneer of these relics hides a complex and sometimes contradicting truth of what things seem to appear as upon first glance.
My exploration of issues focusing on women is important to me for many reasons. Personally, this study resonates with a particular history of my changing perception of me and my role in this lifetime. However, my investigations speak to a greater issue of how women in general perceive themselves and are seen in society, historically and today. In examining the larger picture, I see my exploration of these issues addressing self perception and expectations reaching beyond just purely feminist concerns. It’s a question of how we all strive to attain impossible ideals based on what others define we should be.
So one may ask “Why clay? Why not just draw these images on paper, or on the actual objects?” One way of explaining my building aesthetic would be a form of trompe l’oeil with a twist. In using clay to transform my depicted common household/consumer items, I am again playing with the notion that things are not what they initially seem to be. Additionally, I care about the object being referenced and recognizable while maintaining my illustrative quality that is essential in completing the narratives and messages within the object.