LIZ QUACKENBUSH – ARTISTIC STATEMENT
Many years ago, when I was initially searching for my own artistic voice as a ceramic sculptor, I recognized kindred spirits in ceramic traditions that found inspiration in their immediate environment. Thirty years have passed since I first became aware of Cretan “octopus” pots decorated with the image of the Mediterranean octopus they were designed to catch on the sea floor, Peruvian fertility jugs sculpted in the form of copulating frogs, and Chinese Han Dynasty stacked-house pieces, which included figures leaning from windows spilling dirty water off upper balconies. I remember the time when I first realized what all of these folk pots had in common: The beauty found in everyday life inspired them.
Over the years, as my knowledge of clay traditions grew, I became inspired by naïve ceramics made during the 13th through the 17th centuries in Iran, Spain, Portugal, Italy, France and England. For example, the bumpy surface beneath the gold luster on my pieces hearkens back to the hammered metal dinnerware forms mimicked in 13th century Iranian earthenware. The blue and white painted decoration on my pots is reminiscent of Staffordshire painted ware made in late 18th century and early 19th century England. The copper green hatch work pattern that I use was first used by 8th century Spanish Moors.
After many years of looking outward to other traditions for artistic inspiration, I started responding directly to my own life and environment. Spending time each summer living in the green hills of Vermont and at the Jersey shore, has had a profound effect on my work. Seeking to seduce the user with the dynamic natural charm of earthenware, my work romanticizes the creepy-crawly beauty of the great outdoors. Patterns of animal and reptile skins inspire my surface decoration decisions. The forms of these creatures give birth to my pottery forms. For example, toads found underneath rocks by my seven-year-old son inspire my butter dishes, while banana slugs surrounding our picnic blanket in the Redwood Forest of California inspire my serving dishes.
My goal in creating ceramic work is to bridge the divide between elegant china and down to earth pottery. I deliberately leave clay surfaces irregular so that they look handled and handlable. I want my pottery to invite use, while also subverting contemporary “run of the mill” preconceptions of what pottery is, can, and should be. As I seek to develop my own “garden of earthly delights” motif, I draw inspiration from the tradition of personal intimation in ceramic form and decoration that has been handed down, quite literally, through the ages.