MFA Thesis Work

By matt

These images were taken in the gallery at Indiana State University of my work for the Master of Fine Arts thesis exhibition. May Artist Statement related to this body of work is here:

Body as a Vessel
Matt Chenoweth

My vessels embody my significant emotional and social relationships. As a child, I took machines apart and then put them back together, sometimes unsuccessfully. My fascination with process drove me to experiment with form through clay. In a college ceramics course, I was drawn to the analogous relationship between artist and clay. Clay undergoes many changes during the creative process; there is always a sense of tentatively finding one’s way. Clay is affected by the choices the artist makes, in a way that mirrors human emotional and physical life.

Changes in my life have deeply informed the subject matter of my work. My life changed in an instant when my son was born. That moment opened my eyes to the beauty of humanity and the fact that though the human body consists of the same parts, all people are unique. The human form became an awe -inspiring “machine” with parts working together to sustain life. My use of figurative forms and my way of working, acknowledges the relationships and emotions that leave a lasting effect on the person I am.

I use the traditional tool of the functional potter I formerly was, the wheel, to make nontraditional forms. Starting with a traditional, functional form, each piece is deconstructed and reconfigured to make vessels resembling human bodies. This resemblance occurs naturally, due to similarities between vessels and human forms. Pots have necks, shoulders, bodies, and feet. I transform the symmetrical and static nature of the original form into a gestural, moving figure, seemingly with a life of its own. What started as arbitrary construction quickly evolved into deliberate posturing and positioning of forms to evoke an emotion or lived experience. The forms that result are ambiguous; they illustrate that the human body is just a vessel; its real significance is in containing our personalities and emotions.

The fragility of the human condition translates to the ceramic medium because the clay goes through stages that reflect the delicateness of life. Clay can crack and break, it can slump and warp; these things are, like the human body, directly impacted by external factors. Using an atmospheric firing process such as soda, in which sodium is introduced into the hot kiln as soda ash, diminishes some control of the finished product, and I embrace this inability to control the outcome. The firing process becomes a metaphor for the loss of control in human existence. We cannot control every aspect of life and are directly affected by the environment we live in, and the relationships we share.