BFA Thesis Exhibit

Sarah Turmel


Artist Statement

Touch from Eyes 
The vessel. Process. Tactility. Presence. 

My work began by having no purpose, by letting go, by allowing the work to exist as its own entity. For three years I stayed away from hand building until my frustration with other methods of making peaked and I wished to try something new. My first big hand built ceramic pot captured my heart and my intrigue; she had such a commanding presence over our class’ shared space. From then on I’ve devoted my time to creating more large-scale ceramic hand built sculptures, each created within the same process of pressing hand squished patties of clay together to form swelling, contracting, breathing figures of the earth. They reference an emotion deep within myself that I find easiest to express through the creation of these forms. Their tactile qualities speak both to the eyes and my hands — I reach for there to be a want for touch from the viewer who is only allowed to look. 

Typically when trying to drum up some new idea or inspiration I’ll be doing something mundane when it’s as if I’ve just been cracked over the head! More than a light bulb going off, someone has smashed it over my head, the idea hits me so hard. This body of work was born from process. As someone who struggles with compulsions, the tedium of scooping a lump of clay, squishing it between my fingers until it is flat, and then pinching and smoothing it out onto a larger form quells my body and mind while creating a piece that my fingers have touched and influenced every single square centimeter of. In this way, I am making some decisions about the form as I decide how and where to attach each patty of clay, but I’m allowing the clay to make just as many of these decisions itself. Every work is a collaboration between myself and the clay, and in this way the clay garners its own authority and presence as it grows into a fully formed figure. The realization that my work is about process just as much as it is about a feeling really hit me one afternoon and I realized this was the work I enjoy creating most as an artist. The work references my own emotions, presence, and touch. I’m inspired by processes that revolve around a beginning without meaning and an ending where it has created its own purpose. Likewise, the forms and inspirational significance behind Chinese scholar rocks speak to my work a great deal. These works exist as my clearest form of self expression. I see myself in them. 

I invite the audience to contemplate these forms for themselves. What is it? How does it make you feel? What does it make you want to do? I know what they are to me, but they can be anything to you. 

They do have names though.