There were so many other pieces and photographs from my three-month artist residency I wished could have been included in my book, The Light in the Kiva, that I decided to create Kiva Memories to begin bringing some of these works to light.
Going through the hundreds of pictures I took of this red mica piece “Wave Unexpected” and reliving the moments of seeing it all for the first time still fills me with excitement. I remember crawling around on the floor of my casita trying to find every angle possible as the light and shadow reshaped” the piece. Photographing my ceramic pieces held me spellbound for hours.
It was during my first week living in Taos that I noticed the light in the kiva fireplace, and from that moment on, my world revolved around the afternoon sun. This small town, nestled in the high desert of Northern New Mexico at almost 7,000 feet, has the most gorgeous skies. Every day I would wait for the first rays of light to stream through my window then slowly move from the wall into the kiva. I made sure to have my camera fully charged and ready, because for the next several hours I’d be taking pictures until the light left.
I felt so fortunate to have been assigned the casita that became my home for the next three months. While some of the other ten artist casitas had kiva fireplaces, mine was the oldest -- some 100 years old -- and the only one oriented for the light to stream in through the window then into the fireplace at the right time of day. This perfect alignment made it feel like my own personal Stonehenge.
The way the sun “resculpted” the pieces to reveal these surreal clayscapes was exhilarating. The time I spent in Taos immersed in my art, dramatically influenced my style. This selection of six images of “Wave Unexpected,” only skims the surface of the vast amount of images I took, but I do hope it conveys some of the extraordinary moments of when light meets clay.
Speaking Out with Art
As last summer’s wave of police violence escalated against people of color, the call for action intensified across the nation with Black Lives Matter. The names Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd haunted me and so I turned to my art to decry this racial injustice. The process of sculpting with clay was cathartic – it was my outlet for expressing outrage.
As an arm and clenched fist took shape, ways of sharing this art swirled in my head. After waiting two months for the sculpture to dry, my dreams of sharing this piece were shattered when it exploded in the kiln. There were just two parts left intact, a section of forearm and a fist -- everything in between was in unrecognizable fragments. Rebuilding the sculpture looked hopeless, but a painstakingly long process ensued sorting, fitting and gluing.
Stoking the Fire
My original plan was to smokefire the piece, which would give it a brown and black skin, but there was a chance the flame from the fire would melt the glue. If it fell apart this time it would be irreparable, but only a smokefire could achieve the desired effect. Keeping the flames small and temperature low helped reduce the risk. Stoking the fire till it burned down gave me hope.
After the piece was cooled and removed from the metal bin, it was a great relief to see the glue held and the sculpture’s porcelain white “skin” had darkened just as I had envisioned. Photographing the smokefired sculpture using natural light and shadow allowed me to emphasize the atmosphere and texture of the work. It was an effective process that reimagined the art in a new dimension.
Rising from the Ashes
The images of the resurrected piece with its scars and cracks, created a more powerful message than it ever did whole. It was ironic that what destroyed the piece is also what made it stronger, reminding me of the fiery reckoning being experienced by our justice system.
My dream of speaking out through my art came to fruition in the names of two virtual exhibits: Art Saint Louis’ exhibit Hope and Art Against Racism’s exhibit Memorial.Monument.Movement. You can view the art at the two links below.
"Clenched Courage" in Hope (Art Saint Louis Virtual Exhibit)
(Click on image to view post.)
"Rising from the Ashes" in Memorial.Monument.Movement (Art Against Racism)