The statement.

Posted on Sep 8, 2014 in Art making

The artist statement is one of those things that is required with an exhibition. I wonder where this requirement started. Can’t think any artist in any of the workshops I’ve attended saying, “Yipee! Statement time! My favorite!” Why do we insist on adhering to this practice? Do people actually read these things?

Who am I? What do I do? What inspires me? What was I attempting with this body of work? These are the questions that one asks to begin the Statement.

Confluence exhibit with Cris Fulton and Sarah Snavely

Well, this work represents the beginning of a new subject for me, the American bison. The exhibit at DSU explores my process of how I go about studying and learning about a new form.

Here’s the backstory. If you’ve been reading the blog you know that over the past two years I’ve taken a pottery class at Dickinson State University. Twice a week I drive from my home in Bowman North Dakota up Highway 85 to Dickinson. Right outside of Bowman there’s a large herd of bison. I pass them every trip I make northward. I’ve watched them moving around the pasture for these two years. I find the shapes of their bodies and the textures of their hair intriguing. There are bison-like bison and others that appear to be crossed with cattle. There is variety in their brown lumpy forms.

I’m interested in how genes are expressed. This is one of the things that interests me about dogs – all that doggie DNA in all the various packages from Chihuahua to Great Dane. I’m also interested in powerful animals that have an inherent fragility. Greyhound dogs can be aerodynamic death missiles to small furry creatures but are covered with thin skin that easily tears. Bison are strong and reasonably dangerous animals that have a bottlenecked gene pool. I like to use animals that find success in spite of of their (possible) difficulties.

Confluence exhibit with Cris Fulton and Sarah Snavely

So how do I go about sculpting a new animal form? I start with the elements and principles of design. I’m interested in shape and form and texture. I’m interested in volume and finding visual balance.  I ask, “how can I re-create this creature without making an anatomical model? How can I simplify the form of the American bison and yet still communicate the things that interest me about this animal?” The work in this exhibition shows some of the answers to those questions.

The exhibit also shows my process of exploring several clay bodies, firing temperatures, and the surface techniques. Some of the work is glazed using an electric kiln. Some is directly exposed to flame and smoke staining the surface. Others are multiple glazes and firings or cold surface techniques like paint and graphite. Which ones satisfy my aesthetics? Which ones read “bison”? This work is an attempt to answer those questions as well as create more questions for further study.

Sound okay?

11 Comments

  1. Kelly
    September 8, 2014

    Better than okay. It’s one of the best artist statements I’ve ever read. I appreciated learning that about you and your process. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Sarah Regan Snavely
      September 9, 2014

      Thank you for your encouragement! I think the thing that makes Artist Statement’s so difficult is articulating a process that seems so familiar.

      Reply
  2. Robin Saporito
    September 8, 2014

    I do read the artist statements. I like the insight into the creative process.

    This is an excellent example into your process of creating bison.

    Reply
    • Sarah Regan Snavely
      September 9, 2014

      Thank you! Insight into the creative process – I’m going to write that down. Love it. Makes it easier to compose the next one!

      Reply
  3. Louise Gagné
    September 8, 2014

    Very well written!

    Reply
  4. Betsy
    September 8, 2014

    I read artist statements too, and I agree that this one is excellent. It speaks volumes about multiple perspectives on art in a few words. Well done! I just hope there is a video blog for us to see the variations!

    Reply
    • Sarah Regan Snavely
      September 9, 2014

      Thank you, Betsy! Video blog? That’s a great idea! I’ll see what I can do!

      Reply
  5. Robin Willoughby
    September 8, 2014

    Is this where I say I hate you again????? You sculpt, you throw, you draw…..and now WRITE???? DANG IT WOMAN! You are freaking brilliant…….sigh
    Yes…it’s “ok”

    Reply
  6. Bill
    September 9, 2014

    I’ll agree, you nailed it here.

    I’m in the process of having to write one of my own. I typically detest them, as so many seem trite and full of hooey. One day I’d love to read one that says “This is what I do. I know what inspires me, but I leave it to you to experience this in your own way”.

    Reply
  7. Laura Hawkins
    September 9, 2014

    It makes me want to take a road trip to visit the exhibit. Good job, as usual.

    Reply

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