Date of Award

5-2019

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

Art

Committee Member

Valerie Zimany, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Beth Lauritis

Committee Member

David Detrich

Abstract

Humans experience trauma in different ways, whether that encompasses the psychological, emotional, or physical. Trauma leaves an impression in and on the body. This impression binds an emotional experience to a bodily memory on a visceral level. When the body endures trauma, that memory is often repressed, eventually finding a way to the surface. Understanding the memory of trauma provides an opportunity for coping and adapting in the present. The reassessment of residual memories and experiences allows for an evolving sense of perspective.

This body of work examines the impact of trauma and how it may be made physical in fragmented ceramic figures. To achieve a physical expression of an internal experience, I focus on ways to elicit body memory. The figures express memory through their fragmentary form and layered surfaces. My inquiry considers human vulnerability as a way to evoke empathy in the viewer and reflects the materiality of the human body as a means for emphasizing connections with others. The surface of the sculptural figure acts as a marker of time. I create sculptures in a variety of scales to suggest the processing of trauma over a lifetime. I employ fragmentation by creating headless, armless figures to push memory away from the mind and assert it as experienced through the whole body. Reducing markers of identity in the figures also invites anonymity which, encourages viewers to consider their own embodiment. To implicate the viewer, space and placement is employed to create individual encounters. These encounters allow viewers to consider their own vulnerabilities so they may connect with others.

Clay’s shape shifting capabilities suggests the materiality of the body and makes physical the transitory nature and memory of experience. The ceramic medium evokes strength and fragility, relating to the resilience and vulnerability of the human condition while the works bring form to the intangibility of memory. The figures summon viewer empathy in order to bring them in touch with the physical and emotional vulnerability of humanity.

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