Dylan Draper interviewing Jennifer Masley
A Perspective on Objects and Their Values at Points in Time
Jennifer is a recent graduate of the Texas State BFA program with a concentration in Ceramics. I am lucky enough as a fellow Ceramics major to have seen her work progress and the range of her ability in the medium. Her thesis work consisted of 4 ceramic vessels modeled after the ancient amphoras, a once functional vessel that now can only be found in museum collections around the world. Her work dealt with fact that the once functional vessels are now perceived very differently as we have come to associate them with the pedestal and fine art institutions. Jennifer reminds us that just because an object is functional it is not disqualified from being considered fine art as well as our ever changing perceptions of ‘art’ and how we cannot help but view things through a contemporary lens.
D: So your Thesis work up in the gallery right now, can you tell me a little bit about what led you to the work?
J: I guess my initial reason was just an impulse to make an amphora but overtime thinking about these objects and hearing other artist talk about their work, it just inspired me more to talk about my feelings about clay and how I respect certain parts of ceramics that are not as appreciated in the art world.
D: Are you talking about functional works vs sculptures and stuff?
D: I was going to ask about that because a lot of work in your past has been sculptural and I was wondering why you chose this functional object to focus on in your final semester. Was it because it fit into this concept you wanted to explore or it was the drive to make something you appreciated?
J: Well the initial concept was since they were functional objects and now they are in a museum they are no longer viewed as functional objects anymore and viewed more sculptural so it’s like this grey area between pottery and sculpture.
D: So what was your goal in displaying the works the way you did. As in these functional works that are no longer functional.
J: Well in one of my final critiques leading up to making those decisions we were talking about how display is kind of a pretend way of giving value, like putting it on a pedestal gives it a different feel and meaning than putting something on the ground. And then the one that I smashed it had cracks running down it all ready and I didn’t have a lot of solutions for covering that up so I figured breaking it would be one of those things, like breaking something in a gallery has a different context than breaking something at home, so it became more of a statement.
D: Interesting. Can you tell me how your work has your work progressed through undergrad? I guess what attracted you to ceramics? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do?
J: I did ceramics in community college and really liked it. When I got to Texas State I was originally a sculpture major, But I had a feeling I would want to use a kiln for thesis so I decided to switch over. And I also just wanted to learn more about the material and get better at it, as well as develop conceptually.
D: Well now that your not tied to ceramics since your graduating is there something your interested in experimenting with now, like a different medium?
J: Yeah, I took a painting class last semester and I was playing with abstracted imagery but also using the material in a sculpturally way, so I have some ideas for paintings.
D: Is that oil paint?
D: Very cool. I know you have probably gotten this a lot recently so I am sorry, but whats next?
J: (Haha) I didn’t plan on a lot for after graduation. I am not planning on going straight to grad school so I am not sure what is going to happen in the next year. So I don’t know, I think having an open plan leaves room for opportunities.
D: Say it’s 20 years down the line and everything goes the way you want it to, what would be your ideal set up? What kind of stuff would you want to be making, where would you be working?
J: An ideal situation would be working in the middle of nowhere (haha), just making stuff and sleeping in, being able to buy food and all that. Ive always said if I sold something for a million dollars it would be the last thing I sold and I would just be in the middle of no where making stuff for myself.
D:(Haha) that’s really cool. A lot of your work seems like an experiment, your always trying new techniques and sort of pushing the limits of what clay can do, like melted paper clay pot in you show, can you talk about this and how it fits into your practice?
J: I think just clay in general has so many things to it, there is so much to explore. I just have a tendency to want to do something, like I don’t know if I have an idea I want to explore it and if that idea turns into something interesting then I want to keep exploring that too, or I don’t know I just want to follow my curiosities I guess. I started off with figurative work and I slowly became more abstract, and I guess I’m looking more at the clay now and what it can do.
D: Where does the creative process start for you? From a sketch book, or just making things and seeing where they go?
J: I think it starts off with mini experiments, like right now I am experiment with Egyptian paste. Like I don’t know what that does or even what it looks like. But depending on how it works out I will explore that more. But I do get inspired by other artist so thats fun to do and see how they did their work.
D: So how do you know when a work is finished is something you just kinda feel out or is something where you have a decided end you are trying to reach?
J: I think, hmmmm, I don’t know, sometimes I keep adding to things and if it feels like to much or if there is still room to work Ill keep working on it but sometimes ill just leave something a lone and it will become cold for me so thats a finished sculpture haha.
D: Do you have a favorite work you’ve made?
J: I guess my favorite right now is the green amphora that slumped over.
D: Why do you like it so much?
J: I don’t know I guess it was an experiment that went right and I was not sure what was going to happen to it. I got a lot of feedback and people didn’t want me to fire it, so glazing it and firing it was a rebellious thing but then it worked out so then it was like a prideful piece
D: Can you tell me about some of the influences on your work? Artist or otherwise?
J: One big influence was Nicole Cherubini, she made amphora forms but she was talking about the line of craft and function in art which I was sort of talking about to but her work is more playful and she puts more materials in it and treats the clay more rough. Yeah I think she would be the biggest one.
D: Do you identify with a certain type of work or groups of artist or anything?
J: Im not really sure how to answer that question, like there is a lot of new work that is coming out and I am not sure if there is a category for it yet but I think ceramics is becoming more self aware and artist are playing with the material more and I think that is like a new genre coming out so I like that and i guess I would like to fit into that group.
D: Do you think being in Texas has an influence on your practice?
J: Yes? Not style wise maybe but there is a lot of art in Texas. Especially like San Marcos, we have Eye of the Dog and there are a lot of people around to bounce ideas off of with different levels of experience. And being around Austin there are a lot of working artist that have there clubs and stuff so I think its a pretty decent community.
D: Staying in Texas or going somewhere else?
J: Umm I want to move away but I don’t know if ill come back or not. I am sure I will. It seem like everybody comes back to Texas eventually haha.
D: Haha that seems to be what every one says. Thanks Jenn. Congratulation on your show.