Artist Statement

Pottery saturates human history.  I am humbled both aesthetically and conceptually when I reflect upon the pottery created by distant cultures.  No other art form seems so honest and direct yet replete with ceremony. Following the bloated and blustery 80’s and 90’s of the 20th century, a clay vessel represents a noble constant of simplicity.

I am a visual artist, specifically a potter.  My current aesthetic interest is in ceramic vases and their metaphoric potential.  The ceramic vase seems timeless because it is associated with human cultural origins. When nature’s reservoirs were translated into vessels, shaped containers began their humble journey from daily necessity to aesthetic ideals.  The vase continues to travel its dual trajectory of utility and ceremony as social and material cultures evolve.

Like most people I was drawn to clay because of its physical qualities: soft, wet, sensual, dry, firm, and rigid.  The tactile event in making and handling the finished piece are primal experiences that I still find compelling.  The greatest challenge is every artist’s dilemma, developing ideas that merit physical manifestation.  At the center of my work is the vessel and clay’s ability to articulate forms and surfaces: specifically rigid geometric forms, hard edges and textured glaze surfaces.  While I appreciate the loose, plastic and casual nature of some clay forms, my work celebrates the tightness and rigidity inherent in the material.

I use clay in combination with manufactured materials.  The juxtaposition of my clay vessels with materials created by industry although rooted in nature such as rubber, metal, steel wool and plastic evokes a conscious interplay of nature and culture unique to human sensibility.  These arrangements create sturdy visual partnerships that establish a dynamic context for my austere clay forms.  The seduction of clay’s materiality comes full circle when I transform this soft and flexible material into an alluring rigidity that conveys clarity of form and surface.  In my work, clay’s ability to assume the ideal geometric form articulated with crisp, straight edges and textured surfaces typifies my ongoing exploration of clay’s materiality.  My compositions employ sensory polarities of a highly plastic space:  the physical interplay of figure and ground in contrast to a visual field of spatial illusion and contradiction.  This visual trickery playfully mocks reality, paralleling life’s constant struggle with the questions of truth and illusion, perception and imagination.  The image changes quickly as the viewer moves, disturbing the sensation of hard-edged profiles and flat surfaces.  Choices of color and material, texture and contour intentionally challenge the eye in its dutiful service to the mind.

John Goodheart
goodhear@indiana.edu