Statement by Elizabeth Guignino
In philosophy, becoming is the possibility of change in a thing that has being, that exists. Within my practice this notion of change is what drives me to create, by changing my way of working from wheel throwing to hand building I am able to better foster this process, both within myself and the material. By using hand building techniques and not the pottery wheel, of which I was originally trained, the vessels become something new, and the pieces show their imperfections, adding to the intimate, humble, and playful experience of my work.
Play is an integral part of this journey of becoming. Free of the restrictions of my past practice I am able to let the clay speak for itself and move how it wants to move. I work intuitively with the form, building by hand and layering coils of colored clay. It is important for me to also work quickly to maintain the sense of immediacy necessary to the naiveté of a process that emphasizes playfulness. Here I am also careful not to over-work the clay, or overthink the form, so that the dialogue between my body and the clay remains equal and honest. The deep knowledge of the feel of ceramics that all humans have; the ability to trace my fingerprints on the surface, together with the long history of cultural significance, gives the work a special understanding.
The first vessel I created was unintentionally anthropomorphic, a subconscious sympathetic form, informed by my past with traditional pottery, playing off the natural organic gesture of the clay, and my own psychological state at the moment of conception. The form was bottle shaped but not in any way proportionally pleasing or symmetrical, the belly was slumped forward and the vessel almost seemed to be crawling towards something, trying to become something more. It was here that I first saw a glimmer of what these vessels could hold. I saw the vessel form as a metaphorical starting point to engage the viewer in ideas about the ways in which we relate to each other and our environment.
From there I have been in constant conversation with the clay, where my hands meditatively move around the vessel and its gesture and body are formed in accordance with memories and attitudes related to important interpersonal relationships from both my past and present. What results is an amalgamation of container and creature that I have poured myself into.
The concept of becoming as it pertains to my work also relates to what it becomes after it leaves my studio. Within the discourse of contemporary ceramics, work pertaining to figuration and gesture are prominent. It is logical that psychoanalysis would be key in the conceptual context for understanding the work. My vessels are in essence surrogate self-portraiture in the moments of creation, but once they are placed within the installation setting, in relationship with one another, and in turn the viewer, they become projections of the audience’s experiences and their own psychological states. I am interested in manipulating the vessels playing within the space to facilitate these narratives that incorporate one’s own personal inner psychological experiences and the external shared reality of everyday life.
It starts with a smile.
A spark of recognition, swinging back to worn memories.
It is about a child of a different time and place, and it is about the child of now.
A child who was unrealistic, clumsy, and dreadfully susceptible to silliness.
It is about the joy that is waiting for permission to be expressed.
Joy, a neglected discipline that is constantly stifled by the problems of our age.
It is about what you see.
It is about what you feel.
It is a witness of my soul, my visions in childhood.
When dreams were small and attainable for all.
When candy was a dollar and God was a plush dog.
When days were spent confined to chairs, waiting for that glorious opportunity for scraped knees and grass stained jeans.
It is about staying outside, children of the earth, until the air rinsed itself of pale blue and burned a golden orange.
It is about the past, growing its scabs from playground humiliations and classroom purgatory.
A reminder from the child you were then to the child you are now.
It is about the story you remember and the story you tell.