Carbondale artist picked for national show in Portland
December 23, 2016
Discomfort: it's a sensation that ceramic artist Matthew Eames would like us all to get more, ahem, comfortable with.
Eames, who works with the Carbondale Clay Center as its studio manager, was recently accepted to present an installation he calls "Room" at the upcoming National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts conference in Portland, Oregon. He hopes the piece, which he will create and then deconstruct over the course of four days, will provoke feelings of instability and environmental transience in its viewers.
"With this installation I've thought a lot about how we perceive our environment as being filled with permanent fixtures in everyday life," Eames said. "But in reality, those structures are very impermanent in the grand scheme of time."
The artist plans to construct "Room" with a collection of simple building materials including drywall, metal rods, wood and hundreds of hollow ceramic bricks he is making by hand. The finished product will include a crafted space of 8 by 20 feet, encompassing two rooms and a corridor that viewers can experience by walking through and exploring.
A native East Coaster who grew up on Cape Cod, Eames came to the ceramic arts as a teen and later pursued undergraduate studies in the field at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. He went on to earn a master's degree from Wichita State University, and ultimately chose to take a position at the Clay Center after applying for multiple opportunities nationwide. He moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in August 2013 and says he has not looked back.
"I have really worked to become immersed in the community here, and opportunities have opened up," Eames said. "Things have been progressing in an upward trajectory, so I've felt the past few years have been very enjoyable and productive here."
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He noted that his upcoming installation at the Portland conference will help him place a foot in both the national and local spheres. Eames pointed out that "Room" is representative of the larger vision of his artistic aesthetic.
"My work has always centered around building, and the structural," he explained. "With this piece I want the ceramic in a way to become a discovery — it will create this tenuous, semi-movable space. As visitors step in they will notice things shifting or shaking a bit, and this is totally intentional to play with the psychology of the viewer's mind and challenge how they interpret spaces in general. The goal is that they'll feel a sense of discomfort."
Eames stressed that although the work is intended to appear unstable, the fully enclosed rooms with raised flooring are indeed structurally safe. Two previous iterations of "Room," which he presented this summer at the Clay Center and again at pop-up gallery Nomad in downtown Glenwood Springs, prompted a range of reactions from viewers.
"I've had people shaking things and jumping on the floor before, apparently to test everything out," he said. "There is a notion in the artistic world that once you put your work out there, it no longer belongs to you — it becomes public domain in a way. And the truth is that some people will push the envelope, so it has been fascinating for me to see how others react and interpret my work."
Eames submitted the concept of "Room" to the council earlier this year in hopes of having a chance to bring his work to the national stage.
"It's a very involved application process with lots of forms, image submissions, and a breakdown of materials and timing," he said. "NCECA is the biggest clay conference in the world, with more than 5,000 people in attendance each year, so it's very competitive. I had applied before and was not accepted, but this year I was and it has been a huge honor."
Along with two other selected applicants who will present installations in the conference's Projects Space, Eames will have the opportunity to connect and network with leading professionals in the field.
"I'm looking forward to the exposure this experience will provide, having thousands of people looking at my work and navigating the pieces," he said. "It's an amazing opportunity for my personal career but it's also an experience that I can learn from and bring back to our work at the Clay Center."
For now, Eames is focused on completing his collection of materials and planning their transportation to the conference. He has set up an Indiegogo fundraiser for local arts patrons to help support the project financially and is looking forward to future opportunities and artistic growth.
"I currently have two shows at the Clay Center lined up for after the conference, and beyond that I just hope to keep creating, working and applying for new shows," Eames said. "That's the life of an artist — just putting your nose to the grindstone, and continuing to make."
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