Some of you may already know this about me, but ceramics are a big part of my life. Of course, I love the feel of a good handmade mug in my hand, but more than that I always found myself drawn to potters and ceramic artists. In college, I was always “pottery adjacent,” mystified by the language surrounding clay and how it seemed like this beautiful melding of baking, engineering and luck. In graduate school, I started working at a gallery and eventually stumbled into a short relationship with a client’s son. She was in the process of building her new studio, doing raku firings on her land on the weekends and it was hard to tell if I was more drawn to her studio or her child (Libra problems.) When I wrapped up grad school, broke up with the potter’s son, and moved back to Asheville, I figured it was time to get my hands in some clay. I signed up for a class at Odyssey Clayworks. Incidentally, I also got on Tinder and wound up going on a date with one of their teaching artists. As I spent more and more time in the studio (and more and more time with the teacher) I suddenly found myself part of this mystical pottery community.
That was nearly two years ago. As I’ve battled with my body during that time, I’ve started seeing more and more how symbiotic the relationship between clay and the body can be. Whether it’s the intense body awareness needed to control clay on the wheel, the tactile nature of the medium and the instinct needed to work with it, or even clay’s innate ability to be sculpted to forms that reflect the body of its maker, this relationship is apparent in every step of the process. So, I wanted to talk to some of these artists about their own understanding of how their bodies mediate their artwork. In four new episodes of Hysterics, we talked about just that - but through four very different lenses. Read more about each artist below and be sure to listen in to their episodes.
Molly Morning-glory is a second generation ceramic artist from North Carolina. Her work explores the human body with busts and life size sculptures that express the full range of human emotion - often all at once. In Molly’s episode, we discussed everything from the R. Crumb comics she read as a kid to her relationship to nudity and her own body. By exploring facial expressions, Molly is able to process her own experiences as well as the reactions of others, with work that invites viewers to grimace and even dance.
In the latest episode of Hysterics, ceramic artist Allison Cochran talks us through her body of work that explores our eating habits and the strained, if not dangerous relationship that we can have with food. With pieces entitled “to portion,” “to purge,” and “to spit out,” Allison transforms the innocent eating vessel into a tool and accomplice. Her work asks the question of what is “normal” when it comes to food, drawing attention to how control manifests in our eating habits.
Mac McCusker uses their body in their work in a wholly radical, intensely vulnerable way. As a transgender artist and activist, Mac is hyper-visible, particularly in the state of North Carolina. Their work plays with this notion of visibility, using their own sculpted form to comment on the realities of transition, the flimsy idea of binaries and the potential for empathy.
In their own words…
“Living and working in the state of North Carolina has forced me to address the issues that are affecting my community and has made me the subject of my own work. I have become, for better or worse, visible and vulnerable through making and creating ceramic sculptures. I am creating a dialogue about my life, my own narrative, political and social concerns, and through that process I am educating others.”
In their episode of Hysterics, Mac talks about their role as an artist and advocate, how it has impacted their career and the ramifications of using their own body within their work.
Eliana Rodriguez works at the intersection of ceramics and printmaking, two mediums with weighty connections to indigenous practice and colonial oppression. Through her use of brown clay, the symbols she employs and her deeply informed approach to her art, she creates work that ties back to her own heritage while creating opportunities for others to see themselves in her art.