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Organic abstraction

Stina Sieg
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Courtesy photo
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CARBONDALE, Colorado ” So, what does “organic abstraction” mean to you?

When K Cesark was asked that, she kind of laughed. She then joked about looking it up in a dictionary. That’s the great thing about the title of the latest Carbondale Clay Center exhibit she’s curated ” “Organic Abstraction” has just as many interpretations as it does contributing artists.

“I’m very curious about it,” Cesark said.



Rightly so.

For Sara Ransford, one of the eight ceramists, the words are synonymous with her subject matter and process. Nature, explained the 30-year valley resident, is her church.



“My work is all about organic abstraction,” she said. “I get my all my source material from the environment, and then it connects with whatever is going on in my head.”

She doesn’t start off with a fully-formed plan. Instead, her porcelain and stoneware sculptures are the result of her spontaneity, of all the changes she’s made in the moment. Right now, she’s experimenting with a soda kiln and watching how the flame affects her work. Her sculptures are filled with patterns and inspired by erosion, water and earth. Sometimes they’re strong as a hurricane, she feels, and sometimes they’re peaceful like a lake. With many, a sense of protection is explored. And none of this is literal.

Straight reproduction holds no merit for Ransford.

“I really don’t want to take something out of the wild and redo it,” she said. “What’s really interesting to me is to take forms that we might see in nature, but we don’t see in nature.”

It’s familiar, with a hint of surprise.

Add a big dose of enthusiastic sensuality, and you’ve got Lea Tyler’s opalescent porcelain pieces. Some are bulbous and knobby, and others are long and in-your-face phallic. Her “weebles,” her most recent works, are shiny and smooth, inviting touch. With all of these, she’s trying to bridge the gap between adult and child toys, she explained. The result is fun ” and unapologetically carnal.

What could be more organic than sex?

“I just love the conversation it creates,” she said. “It always makes people laugh.”

Nearly a decade ago in college, her work was a bit more “suggestively functional,” she said. She’d make love paddles and massagers and other erotic objects. Over the years, however, her stuff has become less obvious, more abstracted. Whether her work consists of innocent ceramic rattles or huge male members is totally in the eye of the beholder.

To her, that’s freedom.

“Clay is such a rich medium,” she said. “The possibilities are endless.”

Aspen’s Sam Harvey seemed all in agreement. When he starts out with a piece, he might have a concept in mind, but doesn’t like to plan too much. A lover of hand-building, he wants his pieces to evolve as he’s making them. He needs to explore.

“That way there’s room for me,” he said. “You want to be able to create and discover.”

He’s not into labels. If he were, though, the title of this show wouldn’t be such a bad one. A clay lover since the early 1980s, his work is all across the board, but his tiles for this show do have a subtle natural quality. With figure eight shapes, he references the division or conglomeration of cells. With long lines, he pays homage to the marks of longitude or latitude on a globe ” but in a most circuitous way, of course.

That’s not easy to conceptualize, he admitted. Then again, neither are most of the other submissions. He knows everyone in the show, and what makes their common medium so lovely is also what makes their pieces so incredibly hard to classify.

Clay is “whatever you bring to it,” he explained.

In that way, making the work of eight individuals blend could be no small doing.

“It’s going to be curious,” he said.

And he was laughing excitedly, as if he couldn’t wait to see the result.


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