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Although the imagery in my work comes directly from my own dreams which, in turn, respond to very personal experiences. I must also acknowledge a debt to the surrealist movement. Artists such as Hieronymous Bosch, Frida Karlo, Louise Bourgeois and Hans Bellmer have been profoundly inspirational.

My hybrid figures have been influenced by prehistoric art, the “Great Mother” figurines from the Neolithic period, the animal-headed figures from the rock shelter of La Madeleine, and also the bird-headed Egyptian Goddesses and archaic Greek Kouros figures.

The Last Dream

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Wow outstanding ceramic sculpture – great mix of style and medium! Sent on the Sprint® Now Network from my BlackBerry®

 
 

 

We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough.  We want something else which can hardly be put into words–to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

– C.S. Lewis.

In my work this romantic ideal of union with the natural world conflicts with our contemporary impact on the environment.  These pieces are in part responses to environmental stressors including climate change, toxic pollution, and gm crops.  They also borrow from myth, art history, figures of speech and other cultural touchstones.  In some pieces aspects of the human figure stand-in for ourselves and act out sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous transformations which illustrate our current relationship with the natural world.  In others, animals take on anthropomorphic qualities when they are given safety equipment to attempt to protect them from man-made environmental threats.  In each case the union between man and nature is shown to be one of friction and discomfort with the disturbing implication that we too are vulnerable to being victimized by our destructive practices.

I hand sculpt each piece out of porcelain, often building a solid form and then hollowing it out.  Smaller forms are built petal by petal, branch by branch and allow me the chance to get immersed in close study of the structure of a blossom or a bee.  I chose porcelain for its luminous and ghostly qualities as well as its strength and ability to show fine texture.  It highlights both the impermanence and fragility of natural forms in a dying ecosystem, while paradoxically, being a material that can last for thousands of years and is historically associated with high status and value.  I see each piece as a captured and preserved specimen, a painstaking record of endangered natural forms and a commentary on our own culpability.

 
 

A real eye opening exhibition! 12 newly acquired Lucero pieces have been donated to Racine Art Museum within the past 18 months by six different families across the US. The arrival of so many works by one artist at the same time allowed the museum to curate a focused exhibition featuring his work. The exhibition highlights Lucero’s career development and aesthetic explorations in ceramics between 1983 and 2007.

Beginning with the simplest techniques of hand-building, pinching, and rolling out forms, Lucero created an enduring affinity between himself and his chosen material that has lasted for over two decades. But Lucero’s maverick vision presented the artist with challenges unlike any he imagined. Lucero was immersed in figuration at a time when Minimalism, performance, and earth art were among the dominant and critically accepted art forms. An ardent admirer of global culture, he often incorporates specific stylistic references to one culture or another into his work, creating complex, hybrid forms. Throughout his career, he was discouraged by many in the art world from describing those interests in his work. But he persevered, and the stunning results of this career-long odyssey are a provocative and enduring body of sculpture that illustrates the fluid, dynamic character of global culture. MORE ON MICHAEL LUCERO

Hybrid Cluster No.8

Hybrid Cluster No.8

The primary inspiration for my work is the phenomenon of living organisms in the natural world. In particular, my focus lies in representing life forms, or critical parts of those, which appear to be in some way suspended in the fluid and space of their environment. These forms are evolving, growing, and replicating their way through their existence, paralleling that of our own. By using the limitless potential of clay, along with other materials, the pieces explore these ideas. They reveal a pleasing convolution of organic form and surface through the manipulation, distortion, and combination of disparate yet related natural elements. At the same time, in illustrating nature through the imagery of animal, botanical, and cellular biology in this way, the work becomes otherworldly yet strangely and unnervingly familiar. My intent is for the pieces to exist in a space of seamless illusion on their own accord, unfettered by the handicraft of man. A merging of fantasy and reality in the work is meant to elicit a degree of tension, furthered by qualities of somatic sensuality and formal ambiguity. In my work, these attributes visually and metaphorically relate to the human condition, and help to evoke a visceral and emotional response to our experience of the living world around us.

Hybrid Flora No. 8

Hybrid Flora No. 8

 

My work is inspired by historical ceramics as well as the flotsam and jetsam of contemporary culture.

Synthesis - Stoneware Porcelain, glass, 20 x 14 x 8

Synthesis - Stoneware Porcelain, glass, 20 x 14 x 8"

Moche ceramics of Pre-Columbian Peru are a powerful influence, both technically complex and sculpturally compelling. The richness embodied by these ancient clay vessels drives me to make work that is emotive, reflective of my world-view, and visually demanding of the viewer. Moche artists drew from every facet of life: plants, animals, architecture, the human body, the divine and the mundane of existence. I strive to work in this manner as well, combining objects and forms from the diverse culture and society in which I live, the United States of America in the 21st century. Initially, this approach resulted in vessels derived from street trash such as mufflers and styrofoam cups, buoy forms on the Delaware River, and the urban architecture of Philadelphia.

In recent years my work has become less vessel-oriented, though research into historical ceramics has continued to feed my ideas. Often my forms will seem to suggest a specific function or use, but the use is ambiguous; a hybrid of the known world with a less concrete reality. This newer work also draws from a catalogue of forms that are suggestive in nature. In Philip Rawson’s book Ceramics, he refers to memory traces, and the power of forms to evoke thoughts and memories. This is similar to the way we associate colors with emotional states or meanings. By incorporating forms that are symbolic and suggestive, I attempt to engage the viewer in a process of decoding.

Most recently, I have been intrigued by art that synthesizes the human, physical body with the mechanics of the manmade world. This has led me to research the work of Raoul Hausmann, Max Ernst, and Rebecca Horn. Each of these artists reference the body and its uneasy union with the artificial or mechanical. Symbolic forms that I find particularly compelling include the hand and objects used as surrogates for the body: bottle nipples, respirator bags, sex toys, prosthetics. The hand exemplifies the human presence, while the other objects, to varying degrees, distance us from the most human of activities. These forms, as manufactured objects replicating natural functions, act as substitutes for nature. I find this composite of the physical body and the synthetic world simultaneously fascinating and frightening. Through this line of inquiry I am conscious of the connecting threads that link the many disparate elements of history, culture, and what it is to be human.

Server II - Stoneware, mixed media, 14 x 20 x 9

 

ARTIST STATEMENT

Cut branch - welded clay

Cut branch - welded clay

 

 

 

 

 

I have always been driven with desire for the straightforward truth of the natural world. Nature, through its time tested procedures reveal material as manifest with a record of time, passion, beauty, transformation and honesty.

 

Elements of this kind are essential and primordial to humankind. All things are imbued with this composite. To become close to these elements through making art allows me to touch ever so lightly that universal honesty.

 

-Dennis Lee Mitchell