Humans are complex, imaginative, and explorative beings. We are investigators, travelers, builders, and lovers. We create and destroy—build and tear down—come together and fall apart. We are thinkers and doers; determined to locate our exact physical and philosophical place within the universe. I am interested in the dichotomy between investigation and imagination, the physical world and the imaginary world, the effects of time, and how these concepts and places converge within the spectrum of visual art. I use experimental casting and burnout techniques to create three dimensional ceramic paintings in the forms of towers, walls, orbs, and tiles. Combustibles, ceramic materials, and clay are arranged inside plaster molds. The kiln firing process alters the materials, creating jagged void spaces, shimmering colors, and unique textures. These sculptures symbolize our evolution, our complexity, our history, and investigate our hidden emotions and thoughts within.
My work is layered; in materials, in techniques, and in meanings. Complex and detailed, fragile yet solid, these sculptures embody earth—inspired by its inhabitants, elements, formations, and processes.
Each sculpture begins with the clay—a viscous, liquefied porcelain that I developed to be fired solid and to replicate delicate textures and details. I begin by pouring the clay into plaster molds very slowly, layer by layer. As I pour the clay, water is immediately absorbed, creating fine lines and ripples across the surface of the form. I line the edges of random layers with colorful crumbled clays and iridescent grains of granular ilmenite. The molds I use are of different shapes: rectangular stacking blocks, spheres, cones, and two sizes of functional cups. Some completed sculptures are quite large—both wall-mounted and free-standing. Others are intimate and request close inspection. I use crumpled paper as a resist by scrunching and tucking it into the molds. The clay moves effortlessly around the paper’s bends and folds, creating unique cavities that appear once the paper burns away during the first firing.
After the first firing, many different materials are used to embellish the surface of the sculptures. Dark underglaze adds depth to subtle textures; red iron oxide enhances the colors of the glazes. Raw materials like soda ash, cryolite, frit, and lithium are painted on, each changing and creating elaborate shimmering colors, complex crystals, and rough, pillowy textures during thermodynamic processes. Firing these pieces solid creates small fissures and cracks throughout the sculpture’s mass. These imperfections are desired and accepted, as they show the limits and boundaries of the material and process.
The finished result is a three-dimensional ceramic painting of the earth, made from the earth, inspired by life experiences, land masses, mountain ranges, glacial crevasses, flowing rivers, flood plains, footpaths, and fox-holes.
With an indefinite range of possibilities, these sculptures are complex in making and in meaning, and hold one true idea; that earth is where we live, what we are made of, and who we are.
-- Sara Henry
Sara Henry was born in Bethel, Alaska; a small village that sits along the banks of the Kuskokwim River. Henry received her BFA degree in sculpture from the University of Alaska Anchorage and her MFA degree in ceramics from the State University of New York at New Paltz. She has shown her work in group shows across the United States and Alaska, and has shown her work in four solo exhibitions in New York and Nebraska. Henry uses geology, existentialism, current events, and her solo travels across the country as motivation for concepts, techniques and material choices. With wood, plaster molds, and construction materials, she builds complex sculptures from ceramic casting slip, combustible materials, oxides, and metals. Her work is an inquiry that looks deeper into connections between humans, nature, our history, and our future.