Clay with a Conscience

Clay with a Conscience

Many Christian artists take the time of the 40 days of Lent to engage in an artistic spiritual practice. I have never felt called to do that…until this year.

Hearing that 43 US Senators had blatantly abandoned their oath to uphold the Constitution and voted to acquit Donald Trump of his involvement in the January 6 storming of the Capital, I knew I needed to respond to that with the power of art. But social commentary has never been the focus of my work. I was quite at a loss to respond and yet found it absolutely necessary to do that.

Eventually the memory of what I had seen in Olympia, Greece surfaced.

There, just outside the ancient Olympic stadium, was a WALL OF SHAME to expose those who had cheated. Each on a pedestal had a plaque that included their names, their fathers’ names, their crimes and the city-state they had represented (and embarrassed).

That seemed the perfect approach to highlighting the blatant dishonesty of those 43 Senators, only rather than include their own names…which I did not want to incorporate into anything so permanent as high-fire clay…instead included only the names of their fathers, since their crime echoes back and forth through history.

And so I began as Lent began, setting out to create 43 5”x5” 1/2 thick tiles. One side included the necessary words…the other, abstract gouges and impressions, and as the project evolved, I knew what I was creating was really “A Study in Orange,” and so glazing on the other side of the tile was settled.

My plan from the outset was to share these with the community on Good Friday: a kind of communal Way of the Cross for us as a nation. I was very uncertain that I would complete this project and, as a friend assured me, “it will take a lot out of you dealing with all that duplicity and hypocrisy,” because, not only was it necessary to focus on the betrayal of those 43, but authentically acknowledge the ways that shows itself in me. 

Remembrance is important; my hope is that recognizing this COMMUNITY DISHONESTY calls us each to action.

My intention going forward is to have the installation exhibited in more formal spaces that have a sensitivity to social consciousness; then to sell each tile and donate all of the proceeds to a national organization that works for justice.

So Which Garments Don’t Fit Anymore…?

So Which Garments Don’t Fit Anymore…?

September has unceremoniously arrived. Most of us can hardly believe it…I know I can’t. I thought for sure we would be ‘through the Portal’ by now, on to other things, the new taking shape…

But no.

“The Portal…calls us to tarry rather than rush through, to accept our vulnerability and not simply re-clothe ourselves in garments that no longer fit”.

I continue to sit in that doorway trying to discern which “garments I should not re-clothe myself in,” which “garments no longer fit,” looking out at the world, still very separate, visiting few friends, at best, “zooming” with family.

Knowing that offering classes and workshops are very definitely some of the “garments” that no longer fit, that organizing and administering arts groups in the community is assuredly “a wardrobe” I have definitely outgrown, I looked with uncertainty at the Studio’s relationship to the rest of the world. I agonized over whether or how I should reach out and connect with the community during the height of the Quarantine, but recognized that, too, was not vestiture that was mine. And with it all, I was concerned that my connection with others would become more limited than I would appreciate.  

Shaking me into the beginnings of a new consciousness, however, is the surprising unsolicited flow of commission requests. I am in the midst of a whole series of large projects and small ones, all delightful ideas that call me to engage with the clay in both familiar ways as well as those that stretch my knowledge and relationship with the material. Interaction with individual clients around specific projects these weeks has assured me that there will continue to be lively human connection in the studio.

Every artist, and I believe to the pluperfect, the clay artist, has an element of the hermit in her personality. Thus, my alone-time working at Earthsongs is deeply welcomed. Despite that, there has continued to be a genuine flow to the life of the Studio. Because of this, I have come to know that it is the creative impulse itself, purely the energy inherent in the action of creating, that is an attraction, even as my “old garments” are cast aside.

So that even while alone, standing purely as maker, I understand myself more clearly now as a genuine part of the flow of life here in this local community and the community of the world.

Do I need to do away with other “garments”? Perhaps. But for now, I’m becoming more comfortable wearing just the ones I still have.