When I returned to the United States and established my first studio, I continued to make functional pottery while developing a deepening interest in sculptural ceramics. Over the years of working in my own studio, I carried with me that initial excitement of being immersed in methods, materials, and language that were unfamiliar to me, and I continued to approach clay with an attitude of self-reliance, and of figuring out what I could make with what I had at hand. I began creating forms that explored relationships of dissonance between different types of ceramic materials. Having foraged for materials in Nepal, where no commercial materials were available, I have always been excited by this process. I enjoy using a ‘stream of consciousness’ approach to creating my forms, and as I encounter intriguing materials, I add them in, usually without diligent testing. From the beginning of my life in clay, I have been working to cultivate ‘material intuition’, balancing my formal craft approach with the introduction of elements that challenge the feeling of being in control. This has become an overarching concept in my work and is an idea that very much ties in with my ‘human experience’.
Clay is plastic and mutable but also contradictory in the forceful permanence of its fired form; it is able to be crafted and shaped, yet somehow eludes our ultimate control, by the will of its own natural processes inside the kiln. I explore and manipulate these proclivities by combining disparate ceramic materials in unusual ways, throwing and hand-building with stoneware and porcelain, stitching pieces together with metal wire, adding inclusions of rocks and studio detritus, fired shards and bits of spent kiln coils. I love to observe the conversation between ceramic and the fragments of other materials I introduce—do they reject one another, or fuse gracefully, or learn to live side by side? I am captivated by the surprisingly beautiful disharmony in the materials, their evolving relationships of strife or relative comfort, fusing into a tenuous balance during the firing. My sculptures and vessels are intended as abstract manifestations of our actions as human beings in object form: we form relationships, make, build and construct the world around us, even with the awareness of natural processes inherent in the passage of time that undo our work, shift and change everything as we go along. My practice is about building, making, creating positivity from the surrounding landscape of unavoidable brokenness, building from wreckage and fragments that are evidence of lived experience. My pieces seek to unveil the refined within the rough, the beauty in ugliness, forms imbued with fragility yet exhibiting inner strength, grappling with the contradictions and play of opposing forces we find in ourselves throughout the human experience.
My recent work focuses on pressing issues weighing on all of our minds: environmental collapse, social collapse, an urgent need to clean up and rebuild from the mess we have made as human beings, not caring properly for our habitat. My approach is a little like scavenging– building and creating visual compositions incorporating new forms with additions of fragments and remnants. The pieces seek to create harmony and beauty in piecing together what looks like meaningless detritus of a collapsing world, and in doing so, reclaim a tenuous and fragile feeling of meaning and purpose.
— Ani Kasten