artist statement


bud 3

Each day we slaughter our finest impulses. – Henry Miller

My work is a call to action. My search, in the dark, in the past, in the world, and in the mud, is for resonant forms and their negative spaces. These forms and spaces are made real and lasting through the agency of clay – the earthiest of materials – in order to engage the senses.

I use familiar but half-forgotten imagery to bypass easy recognition, inviting investigation and encounter. I make specters, clay specters, figures of loss, figures of promise and hope that fail to come to seed, ideas passed down over generations but tossed to the margins. They stand soundlessly. I make buds swollen and ready to burst and held in a freeze frame of fired clay, always on the brink of revealing themselves. These organic forms are stripped of surface color. The vibrant green each bud cries out for is displaced. They speak of growth but read as anthracite, living material so desaturated by time and pressure they can only lie buried or burn to ash.

I choose this dichotomy, this out-of-phase shift of surface to form, to draw an analogy to my larger concerns: our cultural false dichotomies of Humankind and Nature; Mind and Body; Life and Death. We hold these entities to be separate and antagonistic, and we wreak havoc with this belief. These all are the same abstraction played out in different arenas.

To believe in an intrinsic difference from all other life forms is to unhitch the tether tying us to the consequences of our exploitative actions. The mind has been made to pre-empt the body and death has been sequestered from its central role in life, a full-on abdication of the connection between our mortal selves and all other living things. With these abstractions we create a gulf. As we lose access to our senses and the sympathetic resonances our perceptions stir within us, we lose hope of drawing on wisdom deeper than the current ticker-tape mentality. We lose any counterweight to the widespread narrative of violence, overconsumption, and devastation of life. We lose our common senses.

I make this work from a spirit of commonality, so that I might give heart to others on the same search. It is possible to revive our birthright of infinitely nuanced senses and, in doing so, regain a grounded internal compass.

Kelly Kessler