Heather Nameth Bren

Artist Statement

Conceptually based and laced in humor, I question taste, beauty, and the idea of value. I want to know how we set up systems of value in society, in art, in ceramics, in life. Value exists at the cost or loss of something and the monetary price of an object. How does our society determine value particularly related to the mundane or valueless? Using objects that passively flood our everyday experience, I transform the insignificant from dish soap bottles, figurines, plates to construction cranes. I appropriate these objects to celebrate the insignificant and to assess assignment of value.

Ceramic production factories are dissolving. International commerce inadvertently shifted its support from what existed as ceramics. Accordingly, I question the necessity / value of ceramics in our culture of disposables. Playing within the traditional, commercial and nontraditional approaches to clay, I question what used to be created out of ceramics.

I create images and forms re-framed by abstraction and inspired by historical reference. Whether I am hand building, casting, re-casting or re-glazing ceramic objects, I always address transformation. The re-appropriation of an existing object re-contextualizes and opens conversations surrounding ceramics in contemporary art. By pairing traditional techniques with an unconventional take on ceramics, I allow new thought in clay art.

My most recent forms, titled “non-objects,” abstract the notion of familiarity and unfamiliarity. I have looked for truly uncelebrated objects within everyday visual banality. My search is for the object that only exists for the function of a more important object. Using irreverent materials like kiln furniture and packing materials, I make modernist-influenced sculpture out of refuse and objects that only exist to support the function of ceramics – and challenge the idea of the authentic object. This approach to generating the object or “non-objects” derived from the insignificant once again raises the question of value.

Similar to the questions of value and ceramics raised by ceramic artists / sculptors Peter Voulkos and Robert Arnesen, I am inspired to continue to bridge the lingering gap between ceramics and sculpture. Toward that end I attempt to understand biases by dissolving the rules that predicate actions and beliefs. By working in both abstraction and representation I explore valuation and biases in ceramics.

-- Heather Nameth Bren