This week I was browsing upcoming shows on the website of Blue Spiral 1 Gallery , my favorite gallery in the Southeastern US.
I was immediately captivated by the work of Heather Allen-Swarttouw ,who recently transitioned from making colorful textile works to creating these gorgeous ceramic and mixed media sculptures. I was struck by the fact that she gave herself over eight years to experiment with the new medium. I think as artists we don't always give ourselves permission to experiment and explore paths far from the work for which we are known. What a brave thing to do. And just look at the results.
I find her work, which is made from ceramic, encaustic, steel, found objects and gut, to be poetic in its simplicity of form and surface. A perfect example of the quietly powerful quality of her work is the boat form below which utilizes a Coptic binding and contains antique book pages.
Voyage of Knowledge
Blue Spiral 1 Statement about her work:
For Heather Allen-Swarttouw the metaphor of an ongoing journey in her architectural series has evolved into exploring a sense of place. There is a sense of a journey, of being ready and poised to go yet simultaneously grounded in a sense of destination and place.
The vessels, rendered in textiles and in ceramic forms, are grounded but not aground. Vessels, boats, and sarcophagi become a symbol for self and the journey of self.
Transition n. a development or evolution from one form, stage, or style to another
For years the staircase has been my muse. Stairs that I encounter are sketched in my journals and then a select few have a special resonance and inspire a piece. Once the piece is begun, it takes on a life or a story of it's own. As I respond to the process, a dialogue develops between the piece and me. The stairs allude to a journey, becoming metaphors for expressing various paths, transitions, and thresholds within life's experiences. This work draws on the viewer's intimate involvement with steps and portals to elicit feelings and personal interpretations. Similarly, a boat symbolizes a journey and a vessel can symbolize self. The vessel is a metaphor of interior and exterior, of containment, of transport and journey, and as a tool like the boat or tatting shuttle, with the ability to create. It is both universal and personal. These vessels are enigmatic being boat pod shapes or pod tool shapes or tool vessel shapes. The vessel and boats allow me a vehicle to investigate new ideas, narratives and relationships.
As I entered my 40's, death and marriage shifted my focus. No longer "alone," the work explores relationships and inter-relationships between individual pieces, their materials, forms and ideas. I am interested in duality and the idea of two (or more) things that are intrinsically bound together, made by the same hand. Created separately, individual pieces are presented in pairs or groupings that strengthen and highlight this sense of similarity and contrast. A dialogue is created by the contrast of 2D and 3D, of male and female, of clay and cloth, of hard and soft, of line and form. The negative spaces and shadows enter into the dialogue, extending the pieces and representing the unsaid between individuals or spiritual world. The 3D pieces are designed for the wall and the pedestal allowing them different expressions or personalities. It is my goal that in presenting different groupings and installations, provocative relationships and dialogues are created.