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Clarissa Eck

Workexchange Artist - Current

I use functional clay vessels as a vehicle for my illustrations through sgraffito. In my art, I am primarily interested in the relationship we have as human beings to that which is sublime—moments of communion that transcend verbal language. We are a part of a rich and complex system of life, but are lead to believe by certain cultural values that we are superior to and separate from it. From the broad media narratives that infiltrate our standards of beauty to a socioeconomic system which allows for the hoarding of resources by the few, we are living in a world informed by values that do not mirror that complex web of life we are ultimately a part of.

The work I make seeks to reunite the human spirit with what we innately know - the experience of presence and joy as understood through the natural world. I have many personal points of connection to the web of life which I re-envision and recreate in my pieces — celestial bodies, the human figure, landscapes, flora, and fauna drawn from my own memories and experiences. My illustrations serve as reminders of the validity of non-human life, and does the work of putting a spotlight on the relationships we have with the natural world. I balance human bodies against constellations, violets against moths, mushrooms against the night sky. Balance and symmetry in the image translates to finding balance as a species with the myriad of other life forms we share the earth with.

The goal of carving into the clay is to create resonance and interaction between the object and viewer. For example, the image of a flower may delight the viewer, and since the image is carved there is an awakening of curiosity. Inner questions arise: How did you do this? How does it feel? What does this flower mean to me? They pick up the mug, they examine it with their fingers and feel its weight in their hands. While the image draws the viewer in, the medium invites exploration and ultimately, repeated functional usage. The clay vessel is transformed through decoration, and the illustration is made more relevant through use as a serviceable object.

I use clay to express these ideas because it is through repeated use of the vessel that these ideas are made manifest into of the fabric of life. We must find a way to reintegrate our spirits and attention into the natural world and begin to do the real work of stewardship and care. As we find beauty, affinity, and value with life outside ourselves, we begin to enter a cycle of reciprocity. My art seeks to foster a culture of balance with and appreciation of the natural world while serving the basic human needs to eat, drink, and grow plants.