Clay Leonard

Artist Statement

“The straight line leads to the downfall of humanity”.  - Friedensreich Hundertwasser

Hundertwasser’s quote reinforces the sensibilities in my work, highlighting the importance of the human element. Recently, I taught a course on “Vessels of the Greek Symposium.” During the class I was struck by how pristine and flawless the Greek symposium objects appear through images. However, when viewing that same work in a museum the slight imperfections of form and surface become apparent. You can see the slight curvature and inconsistencies in the painted straight lines and the off-center tilt of an almost perfectly symmetrical form. These “imperfections” humanize the work. The pieces become more tangible and are activated through the evidence of the human element. My work negotiates a similar balance between perceived perfection and the nuances of the hand in all iterations.

Formally, my work embraces the subtleties of the handmade, while embracing the clean lines of manufactured items. I have an affinity for crisp lines, creative innovation and simple geometric forms. I draw inspiration from mass-produced objects and minimalism, but strive to highlight the directness of human interaction with the material, finding a balance between pristine design and the subtle evidence of a handmade object.

The intention of the work strikes a similar balance between the gallery setting and the humble household, as the forms embrace engaging design, but are still intended for use. Some of my favorite childhood memories were formed around the dinner table with family and friends, eating and engaging in conversation. My current research highlights the importance of these experiences while showcasing the contribution of handmade ceramic ware. The familiarity of the vessel form has inherent power through its association with everyday use, which I seek to draw upon through the design and intent of the work. I utilize my work as a catalyst for interaction and communication, using these communal vessel forms to investigate the important ritual of sharing a meal and reinforce this dwindling tradition. Offering an incentive to highlight interpersonal interaction and get back to the table.

-- Clay Leonard