John Shea ( he/him )

Artist Statement

My work is a reflection of my own personal interest in the way that abstraction acts as both an indicator of individual and collective meaning that coalesces around random matter. I use abstraction as a metaphor that combines geometric and organic elements and looks to build tension between those forms. Each piece looks to highlight the way it both is and isn’t something recognizable at the same time. I believe we pay the most attention to something when it doesn’t fit right, that when confronted with something that disrupts our normal routines and reminds us of something it is not, we can see an object for what it really is. The work questions the way we perceive space in different contexts, it requires a reconciliation between our perception of an object and what we know to be true about an object. Seeing and being aware of this difference is what interests me in our relationship to objects that surround us.


John Shea (American, b. 1989) is an American ceramic artist currently based in Little Rock, Arkansas. His vibrantly painted sculptures contain an implicit duality, one that transcends time and space, balancing a contemporary surface aesthetic with a physicality that looks as if it could have been geologically formed eons ago. Shea’s process joins small shapes of clay together; however, the original forms remain visible through the pieces’ lines and contour. The raw surface texture of the piece accentuates the artist’s actions. After firing the works he sprays them with enamel oil paints, enhancing the luminescent qualities of the colors while heightening his fingermarks and the planes within the piece. Shea remarks “The work is an examination of what makes up an object. Looking at both an object as composed of individual elements and also as a set of relationships that inform those objects. The forms themselves are a mish-mash of organic and geometric shapes that push and pull against each other, a collection of individual parts pressed together…”

Shea graduated with a BFA from the School of American Crafts at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY before attending graduate school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he earned an MA and an MFA. He has been a resident artist at the University of Montevallo in Alabama, and was a Visiting Lecturer at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. He is currently a Resident Artist and Instructor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Shea’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States and internationally.