Alisa Holen

Artist Statement

Both metaphorically and as a three-dimensional design quandary, the nuances of relationships fascinate me. It is in these relationships that I find inspiration. I am interested in creating dialogues and connections within my ceramic forms, often staging forms in postures of dependency, elevation, support, aggression or comfort. Swelling volumes are often perched on tiny bases, evoking nuances of vulnerability and tension. Cups are precariously perched onto forms to illustrate the assailable nature of various liaisons. Special attention is given to the shapes and textures, swells and voids of interactions.

Beyond this, there is something immensely satisfying about finding playful and artistic solutions to functional problems. There is such a rich and varied history in functional ceramics, that I usually keep my work inside the boundary of ‘functional’, even if the presence of the piece is overwhelmingly sculptural. When the user becomes part of the equation, another relationship is formed.


Alisa (AL) Holen grew up with clay. Her father (Norman Holen) was an art professor for 38 years, and still creates sculpture and ceramics. After earning her BA in art at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Al took a job at a production pottery. Finding this unsatisfying (but skill building), she devoted herself to playing Rugby, and didn’t pursue clay work for a number of years. After retiring from the Twin Cities Amazon Rugby Club at 30, she revisited her studio practice, worked on developing a cohesive body of work, and was accepted into graduate school at The University of Iowa in 2001.

Since graduate school, she has taught at eight different colleges and universities, including U of Nebraska at Omaha, Augustana College, U of Wisconsin- LaCrosse, and The University of Iowa. She is now in her fifth year at the University of Southern Indiana as an Assistant Professor of Art and Assistant Department Chair. Holen exhibits both regionally and nationally, and dedicates time each fall to oversee and facilitate “Empty Bowls, Evansville” which uses clay to raise $8-10,000 dollars each year for the undernourished in Southern Indiana.