Maddy Small is an art education major at Longwood. Her lifelike ceramic pieces currently on display in Point of Departure Exhibition.
Maddy comented, “The sculptures I have made for this exhibition are here to bring to light ideas for the audience as well as for myself as an artist. I have always been fascinated by the human form. Drawing and painting figures was always one of my favorite things to do. When I experienced clay for the first time since my childhood I found that I could create the human body in a whole new way. At Longwood University I continued to be drawn to the human form, which is largely due to the multitudes of ways it can be used to express thoughts, emotions, and depth of creativity, while also lending itself to being an intrinsically beautiful object when built out of clay.
As I build these sculptures they begin to take on the human form which makes me connect with them and the rewarding experience of such a challenge is addictive, which keeps me interested and stimulated as I build them. I have, however, had sculptures begin to collapse, I’ve had them break after they have dried, and I’ve had to deal with the challenges of drying the sculpture in order to curtail issues like cracking and kiln explosions. I use a stoneware clay to build the sculptures from the bottom up, using buttressing techniques inside the hollow sculpture, and avoiding the use of armatures for interior or exterior support as a matter of personal preference. I build them on top of a slab of clay which is on top of a kiln shelf, which are made of cordierite, which is used to provide a surface for ceramic wares to be fired. This allows me to lift the sculptures by grasping the shelves as opposed to picking up the actual sculpture, for fear of it crumbling under its own weight. Tools used are mainly my own hands and a few common ceramic tools like a clay knife, trimming tools, water, and needle tools in order to make some of the finer details as well as carving away excess clay to improve the overall form.
The human form can be a powerful image for the viewer in that whether we like it or not, we connect to faces and we perceive certain body positions as signals, for example: dangerous, wise, friendly, or vulnerable. My goal is not to make them as realistic as possible, but to use realism selectively (in the sculpting of the hands, feet, and face) in order to create a dichotomy of realism in order to humanize the piece to draw the viewer in, and abstraction in order to create a barrier with abstract texture and color. I want these sculptures to challenge the audience to empathize with each figure and imagine what they would feel if they were the human beings portrayed in the art and to think about the space that a person occupies; Who would be with you? Where would you be?”
Point of Departure is on display until May 17.