Preparing, Craft Contemporary, 2020.
Hi! My name is Alyson, and I’m this year’s Getty Marrow Intern at AMOCA. I recently graduated from Chapman University with a BA in Art History and a minor in Anthropology.
Nicole Seisler is a contemporary ceramic artist working in Los Angeles, where she also runs A-B Projects, an exhibition space in the historic Bendix Building in Downtown L.A.
Like the work of Jenny Hata Blumenfield, my first experience with seeing Seisler’s work in person was at Craft Contemporary’s 2020 Clay Biennial earlier this year. I remember seeing updates for Seisler’s installation, Preparing, through Craft Contemporary’s Instagram account, and being surprised. Surprised, because Preparing, which was previously created for the 2019 NCECA Annual exhibition, does not focus on a finished product. The installation instead shows the remaining marks and bits of clay from wedging- the very first step of the ceramic process in which a chunk of clay is methodically rolled and kneaded to push out air bubbles and to create a uniform, compact, workable piece of clay.
I was active in Chapman University’s ceramics program throughout my entire time there. During the first ceramics class it became clear that wedging was thought of as unnecessary among students taking the class as an extracurricular, and thought of as tedious to the remaining art majors, including myself. As semesters went by, I began to understand and respect the methodical, ritualistic movement of wedging, even researching better methods and techniques. As a ceramic lab technician my senior year, I would start every shift at the wedging table, picking up forgotten chunks and wet smears of clay left out by other students, carefully wedging and bringing them back to life before returning them to plastic bags.
Preparing is first performance, and later documentation, for artists and art lovers alike to think critically about the level of respect and tradition that can be found in an artistic process. Seisler was taught to wedge each piece of clay 100 times before working with it, and the deep reddish-orange stain that’s left behind on the white wall for Preparing is evidence of those 100 ritual movements done by herself and volunteers.
Seisler’s larger body of work maintains an emphasis on clay as a tool or a means of achieving a greater goal. An ongoing project by Seisler, Hand Pressed Souvenirs, will be exhibited at AMOCA in May of 2021 as a solo exhibition titled Hand Pressed Souvenirs: A Couple of Blocks. The souvenirs are created in a joint effort between community members, the malleability of clay, and the natural textures of the neighborhood architectural landscape. Palm-sized pieces of porcelain are distributed to communities, where participants are able to press the clay against architectural components of their surroundings. What is left is a mold of the landscape on one side, and the texture of the participant’s palm on the other, forming a bond between the two. Just as the reddish-brown clay stain from wedged pieces of clay in Preparing show evidence of a physical act, the souvenirs document a particular moment in time, creating a souvenir to remember the architecture of a place close to home.
Alyson Brandes is a graduate of Chapman University and a 2020 Getty Marrow Undergraduate Intern at AMOCA. During her internship, Brandes writes periodically for AMOCA.org, and posts on Instagram and Facebook on Tuesdays. Read her blog posts:
- Asco and the Hierarchies of Art
- Feminizing Brutalism: Ruby Neri and Her Giant Vessels
- The Cinematic Roots of Clay
- The Colorful World of Miss Anna Valdez
- Split Vessels: Jenny Hata Blumenfield
- The Legend of Beatrice Wood
- Nicole Seisler: Rituals, Processes and Documentation
- Ashwini Bhat
- Nancy Selvin: The Abstraction of Art History