Visiting Artist Paper, Arlene Shechet

Laura Marshall.

Arlene Shechet, 7 February

Arlene Shechet is a ceramic, mixed media and sculptor, specializing in exploring her identity and her place in the world. Her artistic journey begins with a dive into East Asian motifs,
sculpting Buddhas she says as “iconic reminders of death”. Her work is very ritualistic, using repetitive casts and molds, much like the repetitive act of meditation common in the Buddhist tradition. Shechet strives for perfection and eternal peace much like those of the Asian cultures she imitates. Her subsequent works generally involve a blending of mediums or repurposing of previous materials. One work that is particularly notable is when she used paper making techniques to blend blue and white pulp together, creating a swirl of color with a rough texture. For her this work was an exploration of prater mandalas. Much like the Tibetan sand mandalas, the paper she makes is ephemeral in nature. The repurposing of materials becomes a ritualistic process in which Shechet expresses her respect for what she calls “domestic sacred architecture”. She made plaster molds of vessels which she then superimposes paper vases onto. She likens these to the Asian traditional stupa, because she left the plaster molds inside of the hundred vases to act as stands. Her most remarkable piece evolves from this same concept of sculpting and resculpting. She took existing molds with remnants of black paint on the inside, and used them to cast and recast a series of procelain vessels, creating a massive grayscale of vessel until the paint was gone from the mold. Not only is this piece beautiful aesthetically, the process is wonderfully simple. Shechet continued using casting for her next work, Casting Water, which is a literal casting of water using wax, then rubber to make the final product. Recycling and repurposing is an essential part of Shechet’s art practice.

While Shechet’s work is extremely interesting, especially considering her process, which must be grueling and monotonous at points, she failed to capture the enthusiasm of the audience during her lecture. Her work luckily can speak for itself, and she did offer valuable insight into her process. Her most recent works were unfortunately though the least compelling. Her diversity in art practice is remarkable, but the transition from the ritualistic casting to a strange divergence into organic clay sculptures she calls spouts are simply not as moving as her previous works. Shechet has a diverse portfolio however, with many fantastic pieces that highlight her relevance as a contempororary artist. She especially exhibits this in her ability to cross across culture lines to express herself better through Eastern rather than Western world motifs, an indication of her awareness of the changing globalized world.

One Response

  1. HI Arlene,
    Great job on your reflection! It was great to learn about Shechet’s work from your essay. I liked reading about her organic clay sculptures in her work. Keep up the good work!

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