It is said that in life, suffering is inevitable. We suffer with physical and emotional pain from disease and grief. We suffer from loss, such as the end of a marriage, impairment of a limb, or the death of a child. After a series of successive traumas, it is more than resiliency or perseverance that enables one to move forward. With a shift in perspective, traumatic events can be viewed as catalysts for change. As the ancient Sufi poet, Rumi, wrote: “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Clarity of purpose is illuminated by re-assembling remnants of the previous way of life, however, with a more curatorial focus. This is known as Post-Traumatic Growth, which is the essence of my work.
In my artwork, I investigate physical and emotional trauma and the concept of Post-Traumatic Growth by incorporating universal dichotomous themes such as life and loss; growth and destruction; beauty and darkness. My visual vocabulary is informed by observations of the natural world, including flora, and human anatomy. These images are integrated into my large-scale ceramic, hand-built, highly textural, biomorphic sculptures, with focal points of meticulous detail, which are hybridized forms of botanical and anatomical elements, that invoke transformational and transcendent growth. These forms are sometimes juxtaposed with metal or metallic glazed liturgical objects, providing the opportunity for glints of light. Other times, they incorporate ash, the remnants of life lost, which provides the nutrients from which new life can grow.
Based in Cranston, Rhode Island, Elizabeth Peña-Alvarez is a sculptor working primarily with clay. She received her BFA from Swain School of Design and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design as well as an MFA in Artisanry from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2022. Her work is exhibited nationally. She is a recent recipient of the Sage Fellowship for a summer residency at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts and the Angus Graham Fellowship for a fully funded residency at the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts. Presently, she is a longterm artist in residence at the Worcester Center for Craft. Born of Ecuadorian heritage in Miami, Florida, the city’s abundant and varied vegetation has had a lasting impact and continues to drive her studio work.