I use polymer clay and play-doh to sculpt paintings which reflect on ideas of gender, motherhood, environmentalism, and trauma.
Clay squishes and cracks as I work it into paintings of daily life. The cracks that I sometimes fill are reminiscent of the Japanese art of Kintsugi. They speak to healing what’s broken while embracing imperfections. My thigh squishes like wobbly clay. My living room overflows like the clay pushing just outside its precise borders. I work with precision, using a blade and a sewing pin to help position tiny bits of clay, yet the clay rebels, as do my students, as does my daughter. I’ve learned to allow that rebellion, to embrace it rather than fight it.
The tactile feel of the clay is like therapy as I mush it in my hands. Play-doh began as a wallpaper cleaner, a domestic tool for every housewife. It evolved into a play-thing for children. Polymer clay is a craft material, often used for jewelry and sculpture. By transforming these materials into Art (with a capital A), I’m advocating for the importance of mothers and children, and the act of mothering. I see a connection between the way women, especially mothers, are treated by a society and the way the planet, Mother Earth, is treated.
Much of my work has focused on water. During grad school a decade ago, I collected rain water to freeze and melt, expressing emotions over the loss of glaciers and concern over this dwindling blue gold. Now, water’s meaning expands, as I watch my daughter go under the water, kick down, and come back up, gasping and laughing, I feel waves. Waves of joy seeing her in these moments of fun, peace, and calm. Waves of anger and grief over my own childhood. Water has memory (or so Olaf tells us)… and we’re made up of 60% water. So how do I overcome generational trauma? How do I stop from passing it down?
Woven between these conceptual concerns are the aesthetic ones. Color sticks in my memory. The saturation is slightly exaggerated, while the precision of light and shadow highlights the everyday, the scenes we rush past, the colors and compositions we take for granted. My work encourages play, slowing down, closely looking, and taking time to squeeze clay in your hands and notice the particular grays of the sidewalk and road, the reflection and play of light on water, or how the shape of that building relates to the sky.
For statements about each series, visit the series page.