Visiting Artist 2.7.12-MeganMcgrain

Arlene Shechet Visiting Artist 2.7.12

Beginning in the early 1990s, Arlene was greatly influenced by the Buddhist culture.  Arlene began working on her pieces from a Buddhist framework based on iconic imagery. She explained to the crowd that “death was something that was not addressed”. This had greatly impacted her work at this time, from the death of her friend and also the birth of her children, Arlene was very aware and acknowledging these life changing moments. Her work was to reflect these thoughts and interpretations of time, by using simplistic materials and the familiar imagery from the East. 

Arlene goes on to tell us how she values the use of simple materials, and the use of icons in her work as reminders to pay attention, and “how to behave”. I really value how much thoughts and personal experience went into her works. Each piece has intent and speaks to everyone differently. She also showed us works with paint-skins on plaster with varying colors. She was very inspired by Stupas in the Buddhist culture as places to worship and reach enlightenment, and modified plans of stupas for incorporation in her art pieces. When working on her pieces, she is very aware of process and the methods of working to see what comes next, like a performance. She does not over analyze the piece about how it should look, but if she makes mistakes then this was something she told herself was meant to happen.

“100 Vessels and Their Molds” was an iconic piece of hers that she displayed during the presentation. This work was on ceramic with colors of blue and white. Each ceramic piece was balanced on top of its own upside down mold. I thought this display was so elegant, with such a fragile feel. This work was also involved with the stupa theme, because she considers the ceramics to be containers just as the stupas are metaphorical containers.

Arlene worked within many different mediums, and for one piece she worked with crystal. She explained to us how she formed ropes with the contrasting ideas of fragility and strength. This piece was called “Out of the Blue”, with references also to the flow of rivers.

Lastly, Arlene showed us her works after time had passed and after learning techniques of glass blowing. She combined past themes of Buddhism which led her to themes of the breath, and of meditation. She put these ideas into sculptural form. She made many glass and ceramic structures that follow these themes. Many of the pieces are hollow and top heavy, as they symbolize how many of us “live on thin ice”, as Arlene explained. These ideas of hers carry through her works, and hints of fragility and death and the human spirit are ever present in her pieces. She emphasizes the uses of editing, and the importance of process, as life and art are both forms of  process.

5 Responses

  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.

  2. Ahh gypsy i didn’t know you were there! What was your favorite piece???

    • haha yea i was in the back taking notes furiously… I liked her ceramic pieces that were in blue and white, held up on their own molds. what did you relish most of her works?

  3. I am so upset I missed this lecture! I am currently taking a Studio Art class where we learned about Arlene Shechet’s work and I was instantly captivated by her theories and methods. I particularly love her abstract, metallic sculptures that you mentioned at the end of your review. The metallic glaze produces a reflective surface which showcases the artist’s hand and attention to form and detail. It was intriguing how Shechet said these pieces represent how many individuals “live on thin ice.” This statement perfectly captures the breath seen within her work and the transience of life. Thank you for sharing!

  4. My favorite pieces of Schecht were her abstarct cermaic sculptures! The way in which she composed the shapes to expres a percarious sense balance was the most interesting aspect. Visually, some shapes supported themselves in nearly impossible ways. She took advantage of the medium and created a successful series of work; conceptually deep focusing on her breath as an abstract tool for creation and visually appealing.

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