October 25, 2011

AIR Interviews: Celia Butler

This week, we are posting the first in a series of interviews with our newest artists-in-residence. Celia Butler, from Carbondale, IL, is a mixed-media artist who holds a MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute. She has been with HCCC since August and will be here through the end of November. Be sure to come in and check out her studio before she leaves! To learn more about HCCC’s Artist-in-Residence Program, click here.

Celia Butler. Sugar Gazing, 2011. C print. Photo courtesy of the artist.

What kind of work do you make? 
I make work about fantasy and the over-idealized female, which I see as a strange combination of adolescence, sexuality, and perfection. The images I create are of a youthful and innocent female wearing a sugar bow some place on her body. Currently, I'm working on a life-sized porcelain doll that I will photograph similarly to my other photographic work. I'm also working on some heavily adorned, adult-sized baby bibs for the doll to wear. And, yes, I realize this sounds weird.

What is sugar pulling? Can you explain the process and how it became part of your work? Sugar pulling is a process in which you literally pull a hot sugar mixture until it becomes glossy and ribbon-like. Most people are familiar with ribbon candy, which is made with the sugar-pulling method.

I had previously been making work about adornment but decided that, instead of using bows made from real ribbon, I would use ones made from ribbon candy. Making the bows from sugar facilitates a critique on the contemporary idealized female because it implies an oversaturation of sweetness, innocence, and fragility. Candy's oral nature also suggests sexuality.

Celia Butler. Photo by Erin Sweeny and Brittany Nelson.

Are there any artists or designers who you are inspired by?
I think that artists who have successfully managed to make their studio practice their full-time job are pretty inspiring.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Still making art.

What is your favorite thing about Houston?
Favorites are hard—and I've only been here for two months—but Houston's art scene seems to be busy and well supported.

Can you tell us something we’d be surprised to know about you?
My cell phone is broken and displaying everything upside down and backwards. If I haven't responded to your text, it's because I'm still trying to figure out what it says.

Who would play you in the movie of your life?
I'm assuming I'll be dead before that ever happens, so the casting director can just choose for me.

October 19, 2011

Jennifer Ling Datchuk Video

Artist Jennifer Ling Datchuk writes about her experience working with Mark and Angela Walley to create a short documentary that addresses the core issues surrounding her work and her artistic process. Four of Datchuk’s pieces are currently on display in the in-house-curated exhibition, Beyond Useful and Beautiful: Rethinking Domestic Craft. Datchuk has enthusiastically shared this video with us, and with all of you, as well as providing us with a little insight into its making and content.

Ceramic Artist Jennifer Ling Datchuk invites us into her home for an intimate look into her artistic process and the personal experiences that have shaped her perspective of race and identity. Datchuk’s family history unfolds as she creates a piece entitled “worry”. Also, featured in the film is her loveable dog Scooter, who joins her every step of the way. Learn more about the artist at http://www.JenniferLingDatchuk.com.

It’s never easy watching yourself on video.  It’s one thing to create works of art, display them in a public gallery and let them speak for themselves.  I’ve always been comfortable talking about the core issues surrounding my work and my distant relationship with my parents but, initially, I wasn’t prepared to say it on camera and have it live forever on the Internet. 
The Walleys were amazing to work with and made the whole situation extremely comfortable.  Angela asked great questions, and Mark captured every perfect moment, especially those involving my dog, Scooter.  What was created was a short, four-minute biography video about my life and artistic process.  It tells my personal experiences of race, identity and family and why I choose to create the work that I do.  These topics can sometime feel too heavy and difficult to talk about, and I am glad that there are elements of humor in the video. 

In the video, I construct one of my unfired handkerchief pieces.  I use found and handmade molds to slip cast and create the wall plaque and chicken-foot pieces.  After the building process, the piece is bisque fired and then a clear glaze is applied.  The piece is also adorned with a traditional Chinese blue and white transfer.  Once the firings are completed, I hang the piece on the wall and start to determine how the handkerchiefs are placed.

I dip the handkerchiefs in a mixture of porcelain slip (liquid clay) and wallpaper glue.  I work quickly, while the slip-glue mixture is still liquid, to dip and then tie and knot the fabric pieces together.  Once complete, it will take a few days for the piece to dry and form a slightly hard shell.  I do not fire the pieces because this shell will age and yellow over time and convey a timelessness that a static and fragile fired piece could not. 

This video has allowed me to share my story, and it has been worth it every step of the way.  The feedback I have received has been wonderful, and I still find lots of people who share my story.  Scooter can tell you, we are more alike than we are different. 

--Jennifer Ling Datchuk

To find out more about the Walleys and their films, check out their website.