Visiting Artist Lecture Paper

Elissa Buchalter

Visiting Artist Paper #1


Arlene Shechet is a ceramic artist from New York that came to speak at the University of Colorado Visiting Artist Lecture Series last Tuesday. Arlene received her BA from NYU and her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. 

the "vessels" from her "100 vessels and their molds"her installation from the University of Washington, an homage to 9/11

She is a highly accomplished artists and she has recently been featured on the cover of Art America magazine .Arlene’s work is highly influenced and inspired by Buddhist beliefs and practices and her work deals with the pairings of opposites, such as, east vs. west and solid vs. liquid.  She started off this lecture by showing how she got to where she is currently in her career as an artist.  She wanted to structure her talk in this way, because when she was an art student she had no idea how she would end up anywhere.

She began the lecture by discussing the shift her work took in 1992 when she decided to work within a Buddhist framwork.  Arlene had recently experienced the premature deaths of several close friends while at the same time birthing her children.  She wanted to address the issue of death in her life and felt the need to live life from within.  Arlene started to simplify her art making practices and started messing around with plaster.  She ended up making a form that looked like a Buddha.  She began to think of these round forms she was constructing out of plaster as almost forms of Stupas, which are like Buddhist temples where one obtains enlightenment.   This inspdired her to start working with paper pulp, and how blue and white paper could come together to form a single image.  By working with this material and process, Arlene was exploring the idea that all things are in constant flux and change is always happening.

Arlene began to cast the blue and white paper plans around solid plaster molds in blue and white, working with the idea of deconstruction and reconstruction.  Her round “vessels”, or Stupas, was a reliquary or container, similar to the form of a vase.  She had an installation show at an art gallery in LA that was titled “100 Vessels and Their Molds”.  The stands the vessels were perched upon were made of heavy solid plaster casts of the vessel.  The vessels themselves were light and airy paper sitting on top, constrasting the weight and solidity of its reflection that was the base.

In 2003 Arlene had a project at the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington.  She experimented with casting porcelain, which was a big leap from the work she was used to doing in paper.  She made porcelain vessels, and then cut each of them apart.  Instead of painting each vessel, she painted the inside of the molds with very dark shades but did not re-apply pigment after each cast was taken.  Therefore, each time she took another mold the color got lighter and lighter, until eventually the cast was compleltly white.  The end result of this was a gradation of shade from very dark to stark white.  All the vessels where installed together, lining a wall and had a ghostly effect.  This installation was an homage to 9/11, because as a New Yorker Arlene had a traumatic 9/11 personal experience and wanted to make reference to the ash and the black and white of the newspaper through this piece.

One Response

  1. I also went this this visiting artist lecture, her work was pretty cool and I think the way that she spoke about how she got from one piece to another was pretty cool. It made me think how artwork that I may work on will definitely be changing in the near future through new thoughts and ideas.

    I like how you gave so much about her as an artist and about her life, I think it would have been also beneficial if you added some thoughts about what you thought of the lecture or what you thought of her as an artist!

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