Artist Statement: Claire Schmucker '20
I am passionate about environmental justice and activism and see art as a form of communication that can synthesize these two ideas. I am drawn to concepts of a stasis and change within the earth, specifically to the ways these two dichotomies exist at one time. As an avid outdoor explorer, I am particularly drawn to the constant evolution of the natural world. From million-year geological transformations to seasonal changes, to photosynthesis of plants, moon cycles, geological transformations, and rising/falling tides, the earth is forever in motion.
The work in this exhibition is centered on the concept of erosion as it pertains to geographical evolution in the natural world. The way that the earth is simultaneously both constructed and deconstructed by natural phenomenons is a unique tension that I try to capture through my work with clay. The clay medium is particularly relevant to the environment because of its origin in soil.
Clay, like the earth, has a nuanced juxtaposition between fragility and ruggedness. The clay itself, in the raw stage, is malleable. After drying and being fired it takes on a fragile state that is sensitive to even the slightest movements. For these reasons, clay is an apt medium to explore erosion and environmental change. In sculptural work, there is a temporal aspect of clay. Clay is a malleable material that is able to be fired the process of firing clay captures forms in a certain state. I view this as a mirror to the ways in which we experience the environment. It is an ever-evolving state that we interact through moments in time.
Paying attention to the environment and to erosion involves acknowledging how people view and engage with the earth. We are often locked into one perspective even though the earth is in a constant state of change. This highlights the temporality of earth and its shifting forms. The clay pieces in this exhibition are not singular representations of the earth; rather they are snapshots of one moment in time.
My intention for this exhibit is to have people be able to interact with the work from different angles. The floor installation and the singular small, square tile allow for the audience to get a bird’s eye view of topographic formations, a perspective that is often limited in daily life. The slabs displayed on the wall present another way of looking at the earth where the viewers can view pieces close up (micro-level) as well as from afar (macro-level). Each of these perspectives draws attention to different characteristics of the work; the close-up view draws out imperfections that are highly present in the natural world, and the distant view allows the viewer to see broader shapes and forms.
With some pieces on the floor, some on pedestals, and others on the walls, at different heights and depths, the audience is surrounded by art and can view it from different angles and moments in time. I have made an intentional effort to mount my slabs on the walls with minimal rigging. This is meant to draw attention to the work, not the noise around them. For the tails, the black backdrops accentuate the variety of flashings and woodfired textures to interact with.
The earth is constantly changing with us and around us. As we live in it, it becomes easy to overlook the beauty within our environment. In this exhibition, I offer an invitation to consider the dual fragile and rugged nature of the natural world through my clay pieces on the subject of erosion. I used clay as an art form to explore the natural world and to pay attention to what is changing and how humans are shaping that change.