On artworks made during Blanc de Chine Artist Residency Award, China
An Everblooming Stilled-Life
Herein lies a stilled piece of life, an arrangement comprised of a Buddha hand mudra holding a budding blossom, hand mudras with carved eyes on their fingertips, spiral blooming peony flowers in white and celadon/cabbage green, shiny glazed swollen hearts, crystal imprinted fortune cookies, and painted leaves.
A frozen yet flourishing grouping of hand positions used in meditation practice to evoke a particular state of mind, every mudra has both an outer/symbolic and an inner/experiential function, for it communicates at once, both to the person who performs them and to the observer, aspects of the enlightened mind. The tips of the thumb and index finger touch each other and form a circle here, standing for the never-ending flow of energy. Eyes are carved on the fingertips of this mudra hand expressing further the rarefied and powerful energy emanating from an enlightened being through his or her hands.
The other is the Buddha hand mudra holding a scared flower bud expressing the energy of compassion, liberation and offering of acceptance; it is often seen in conjunction with other mudras, and bestows a specific quality of energy one might be seeking from an enlightened being. Leaves figuratively grow and flourish around the fertile spiraling blooms that are both physically still, yet visually kinetic highlighting the beauty in contrast and contradiction.
These works were made during the Blanc de Chine Artist Residency in Dehua, using traditional flower making techniques generously and compassionately imparted to me by master hands and hearts. Hands making hands, hearts making hearts all brought together in a contemporary floral arrangement.
This completely porcelain work is entitled “Butterfly Guanyin." It is comprised of cast heart and Buddha hand forms, hyper-realistic flowers made by hand under the direction of Chinese master flower makers, and the life-sized sculptural portrait head representing the not quite male nor fully female spirit of a compassionate Buddhist deity, the Bodhisattva Guanyin.
Representing the essence of wisdom and compassion that is Guanyin, enlightenment through transformation, and the pure beauty of the most special of porcelain materials found in the mountains of Fujian, this piece is very much an embodiment of dreams come true. It has been more than a 25 year dream of mine to make artworks in the most historical place in China with the most special of porcelains at its source where it has the highest energetic vibration. That place happens to be Dehua, China for me. The luminous beauty of the clay lets the finished pieces contain and effuse their own light, making it alive with life, transforming or enlightening it, very much what the Bodhisattva Guanyin essentially does.
For me, the creative process becomes reality when inspiration takes form. “Alien Guanyin” is the anchor piece in a body of works that comprise a larger wall installation entitled “Head, Heart, Hands” which expresses the idea that all creation comes from the mind/head, flows through the heart and finally out through the hands into these forms called art.
The Head not only represents Guanyin, it is also symbolic of the mind — higher thinking, or mental creation. What we think, we create. The Heart shapes are meant for greater heartfelt compassion, emotional creation; humanity was born from the Bodhisattva’s tears of compassion. It is sweet to note that two tears placed side by side form a heart. The spirit of Quan Yin is that of compassionate loyalty and the greatest lesson of life and reason to live: love. The Hands simply support the Heart and are for larger service to community and the world, whatever form that service may take or be.
This artwork was made during the Blanc de Chine Artist Residency Award 2018/2019, Dehua, China at Master Lin’s studio. It was an honor to learn such skillful mold making and casting techniques and to use them successfully. The butterfly wings and the small teardrop heart-shaped wing forms were specifically modelled/designed so that one mold could produce both a left and a right side. Another lifelong dream of mine — to learn how to make porcelain flowers — realized itself when master flower makers welcomed and taught me the techniques to do so. The results of such generous sharing of masterful skill can be found on at top Guanyin’s forehead, where it blooms endlessly.
When were you a resident artist at the Clay Studio?
From 1999-2004… I think. I also had a “big girl” full-time + job at the Fabric Workshop and Museum (firstly as Apprentice Coordinator graduating on to Master Printer & Artist Project Coordinator) during my tenure.
What brought you here to The Clay Studio?
The Clay Studio is a majestic world re-known ceramic place to be. During grad school at Tyler School of Art I would take the train in from Elkins Park to my job as the Studio's weekend StudioTech. I loved the place and applied for a residency and the rest is history — literally!
What have you been doing since then? I mean, how has your art-making developed and changed since being a resident at The Clay Studio?
During the last year of my residency I was super lucky and got a Pew Fellowship in Sculpture/Installation, quit my big girl job to focus on my final Resident’s show and went to London to do pre-doctoral studies with the London Consortium at the Tate Modern towards a Phd in Humanities under the direction of my mentor Paul Hirst.
Thereafter I focused on doing super sweet and intense artist residencies at Kohler Arts/Industry Program, European Ceramic Work Center in the Netherlands (twice), and most recently in Dehua, China. In there somewhere I started my own Studio School, teaching, working with my apprentices, and sharing with so many people ages 4-104 my love of screen printing. My art making has come to include many community-based projects, public art, and always teaching, especially to the future (ie children). Check out my website and see what I had been up to over time!
My work kept getting bigger, vaster, and deeper, yet in retrospect I feel as if I am making different versions and variations of what I have always been creating. Repeating patterns and designs, I kept practicing and practicing until deciding to liquidate everything and move cross country to my dreamland of California to explore the coast and focus on developing my lifelong personal interests in healing, meditating, beach loving, and daily sunset seeing.
Now my work incorporates all my experiences in every aspect of dimensional life and combining all of my interests and secret studies, furthering my staunch belief that art and nature not only save lives but are life.
Why do you think that place matters? How has being in Philly affected your art-making?
Place always matters. Being displaced matters even more. It provokes empathy and compassion for others in similar positions and has led me to start my own long-term and quite possibly never-ending residency project, “Wherever You Go, You Art”. Meaning, wherever one goes, one creates as a human being, just by being a creative human — which we all are.
With that I have had lots of studios and lots of living spaces in so many sections/hoods of Philadelphia, as well as in different parts of the world (China, Netherlands, London, New York, Ohio, California….) that have a/effected my work and spirit greatly; so much so that several bodies of work relate specifically to living on this planet as a being and use the words “house/housing” in their titles.
Living in Northern California and apprenticing as a chef at Green Gulch Zen Center & Organic Farm, I felt much closer to my actual way of being, absorbing the utter beauty of the coast into every cell of my body — especially my eyes. There on the Golden Coast I re-aligned with my whole self by way of such breathtaking nature; I came to clearly understand its healing role in life and to share that with others.
What have you discovered about Philadelphia as a place for artists?
Artists are drivers of economy and MUST be supported. There is so much talent in Philadelphia that it is mind blowing. Community is everything — here, there are many communities that overlap and merge. Artists (artistic/creative approach to life/living) are the most valuable of all resources (human and otherwise) and influence every aspect of society, yet society behaves as if otherwise.
What were you working on as a guest artist at The Clay Studio this summer?
I made a “Tiny Tea Cup Factory” using 9 different shapes of one-part casting molds. I made hundreds of little cups with Chinois blue transfer images and developed my “TEA Housing” project for the niche space in the Bonovitz Gallery. My goal was to produce cups for tea sharing and ritual use.
Additionally, I decorated unwanted (up-cycled) dinnerware plates with decals of amethyst gemstones, developing designs & patterns that stimulate the cosmic laws of the universe and emit healing energetic fields with their symbolism, giving them new life with an artful transformation by heat and fire.
The installation “TEA Housing” is the result of my residency and return to The Clay Studio with my worldly experiences working with clay in California & China over the past several years, sharing my experiential knowledge with the community.
What has been your favorite Candy Coated exhibit/show/installation?
My favorite was a one-night-only presentation at the Crane's huge Icebox Gallery space called “dark to light...”. It was a dedication to my father’s recent passing. There was a “stream” of 18 young women lying on the floor and a 12-year-old professional ballerina costumed as a black swan who danced improvisationally and sensitively about the galley, interacting gently with each sculptural work. Images of this rare work — seen only by about 50 pairs of eyes in person — are here.
KATZ! She is my favorite little cutie, a brindle tiger cat. She is a support animal and was the subject of a mural in Callowhill, Philadelphia (which has since been defaced and painted over). She made a cameo in pillow form appearing in multiples with my “CandyCoated Wonderland” exhibition at the Perelman Building, Philadelphia Museum of Art. She has many fans and so many roommates, loves dogs yet strongly dislikes other cats. She has my heart.
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