Kristen Cliffel

Artist Statement

Lulled by the banal rhythms and social constructs of domesticity, one can easily be seduced into believing that all is as it should be on the home front. There is an inherent tension in the “domestic agreement” when I examine it honestly. The battle between primal needs and desires versus the sublime comfort of “belonging” to a civilized and bonded family unit full of responsibilities and behavioral expectations is unimagined and very real. My work is an exploration of some of these “Domestic Mythologies”.

Our culture surrounds us with pervasive archetypal myths and fairytales. When measured against these, “Storybook” expectations, life appears daunting. “Happiness” and “Fulfillment” seem bloated and almost punishing when viewed through fairytale lenses. I find myself at odds with prescribed routes to “Happily Ever After” and “Success”.

Creating artwork is the way I express my questions, concerns, and hopes for the future. Being a wife and mother, I find myself wedged into roles that both trouble and delight me. The emotional concept of “Home”, belonging to someone and someplace, seem integral to human fulfillment. The perilous and circuitous routes to these goals are what I investigate in my sculpture. Connection, safety, security, hope and fear are some of the emotional triggers that crystalize ideas for me.

Developing visual narratives helps me understand some of the mixed emotions I navigate through on a daily basis. By distilling events and feelings into visual metaphors, I seek to reveal the complex layers and emotions that are behind seemingly simple, yet integral relationships. Taking things out of their context, and juxtaposing them with other seemingly unrelated objects, begs questions of relevance and purpose.

Ceramics is a malleable and expressive material that lends itself to seductive surface treatments and voluminous forms. The relationship between the medium and my choice of subject matter feels innate. Using humor and beauty in the work allows me to delve deeper into the heart of the intimate relationships that surround the domestic stage.

-- Kristen Cliffel


Kristen Cliffel is a ceramic sculptor living and working in Cleveland, Ohio. Her studio practice is centered around themes of domesticity and emotional relationships. She graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1990 with a BFA in Ceramics. Kristen’s work is included in many public and private collections across the country.

Kristen has completed Residencies at The Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada and the Kohler Company in Wisconsin. Kristen has given workshops at the Penland School of Crafts as well as Anderson Ranch Arts Center and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. She has been awarded a Creative Workforce Fellowship from the Cuyahoga Partnership for Arts and Culture, has received several Ohio Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships and has been a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant Nominee. In 2016, Cliffel was awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize for mid-career artist in the visual arts.

Kristen teaches sculpture and ceramics with school-aged children in the northeastern Ohio area as well as giving workshops at Universities and Colleges across the country. Cliffel continues to work in her studio in Cleveland, Ohio and shows widely across the country.