CREATIVE PEAKS: Of Clay We are Created

By on February 2, 2016

Figurative sculpture kicks off Center’s 2016 art season in high relief.

Each of Suzanne Storer ‘s clay sculptures is an intimate human narrative. (Photo: Center for the arts)

Each of Suzanne Storer ‘s clay sculptures is an intimate human narrative. (Photo: Center for the arts)

Jackson, WY – The lunch lady wears a hairnet, collared shirt and glasses. She is the cafeteria worker we all know and remember, and she is captured in clay by artist Suzanne Storer.

After sitting in a Smithsonian portrait competition at the National Gallery of Art, the sculpture will show in the Center Theater Gallery as part of Storer’s exhibition “Who We Are.” Storer will show about 18 clay pieces, including the “The Lunch Lady,” in the exhibit.

Storer starts with life drawings and then transfers the images onto clay, which she molds to create a three-dimensional form.

“It’s why her stuff has that unique look of a life drawn portrait, but in 3-D,” said Carrie Richer, a development associate at CFA and its coordinator for art in public spaces.

All of the sculptures, which weigh between 20 and 30 pounds, will be placed so they are looking at the piece next to them, or can make eye contact with the viewer. The design creates relationships between the sculptures and the viewers, Richer said.

Storer features people from all walks of life in her work—from her own family, to a homeless man she met in the park.

“I really like the greater perspective she works with,” Richer said. “It broadens our horizons and our compassion for humanity as a whole.”

The work in her exhibition at the Center was created from her desire to connect with other people and for people to connect with each other to better understand the human condition, Richer said. Storer finds the uniqueness in each of her subjects, all of whom are everyday people. She respects them by creating a strong likeness physically or psychologically.

Born in Oregon, Storer earned a degree at California College of the Arts. Many artists have influenced her; in particular, Picasso’s painted ceramics, and the ceramic sculpture work of contemporary artist Akio Takamori.

Her interest in sports also helps to mold her artistic work. Growing up, she was interested in art and sports. By first grade she was drawing Walt Disney figures. As she got older she became a serious tennis player.

Her experience in sports gives her perspective on how bodies move, how they are proportioned, as well as angles and shapes, Storer explained.

“You are aware of yourself in space and my sculptures are about that to some degree, but they are grounded by the wall,” she said.

Storer started her career as a potter, but people kept hanging her work on the wall so she shifted to sculpting, beginning with crows and ravens. “Even though that was very interesting, you look into their eyes, you don’t get much back,” Storer said. “But with another person, it’s just an immensely rich and deep connection.”

An experienced figure artist, she combined her interest in the human form and her love of connecting with people, with her love of clay.

Storer works from life drawings she creates from collaboration with her models. They express themselves in their poses and she gives them part of the credit when it comes to her work. “With one model in particular, every time I draw him, it’s like self-rising flour,” she said. “I know the drawing is successful.”

She enlarges the drawings, placing them on a slab of clay. She works in high relief, meaning the sculpture is raised from the background. The clay brings dimension and depth to the work, and Storer loves the physicality of working with it. You can create anything with clay, she said.

After firing the clay, Storer adds color using terra sigillata, which cracks when used in multiple coats. Those cracks add texture as well as color to the sculpture. If Storer needs more color, she’ll use room temperature glaze, which she can drip onto the surface.

She’s been told by writers at Sculpture Review her work is moving high relief sculpting forward. No one in her home of Ogden, Utah, is creating similar work, so she continues to push herself and her art into new territory.

Storer’s is the first show in the gallery this year and kicks off a lineup of high quality and award winning artists, Richer said. PJH

“Who We Are,” new work by artist Suzanne Storer, exhibit runs through Feb. 29, artist talk noon Thursday, opening reception 5:30 to 7 p.m., Friday, Center Theater Gallery, Center for the Arts.

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