Monday, September 8, 2008

Prickly On The Outside, Vulnerable On The Inside ~ Shane Keena

I recently saw an image of Shane Keena's work on FaceBook. In my own work i am always exploring texture and have been somewhat obsessed of late with cellular organisms so when I saw these images I was drawn to find out more. Then I remembered seeing them at the Armstrong Gallery on my last visit to Pomona's American Museum of Ceramic Art. They are spectacular, so I set out to learn more about this artist. You can read Shane's artist statement here on ArtSlant, I really dont know what I could say, he describes his work and self succinctly. I am very pleased with his answers to my "interview" questions, so here they are!

Why clay? The obvious answers of how the material feels between your fingers and its working possibilities are a bit cliche, but I guess that’s how a cliche becomes a cliche huh. For me, once I got my hands in it in junior college, I just knew. The most articulate reason for working with clay I’ve ever come across that epitomized “ why clay” for me was in an article about the work of Ken Price by Kathleen Whitney in Sculpture Magazine. She wrote, “Clay is the underground material of Postmodernism with its incredible plasticity and its form-shifting qualities that allow it to mimic other materials and genres. Clay is a chameleon substance; it has no fixed visible nature and it can occupy any spatial volume. Devoid of inherent form, it also requires next to nothing to stick to itself and has no need of glue, nails, or screws. It can be molded in a press like aluminum or poured into a form like bronze.”
What gets you in the mood? I don’t know if there is any particular catalyst for what gets me in the mood…sometimes I’m chomping at the bit to get in the studio and other times it takes an exhibition deadline to get me in there. When I get back from traveling I’m usually pretty ramped up about getting in and putting mileage on my hands. I guess it just depends…
Do you listen to music when you work? When I do it’s usually jazz, but I mostly listen to talk radio while I’m in the studio.
What motivates and inspires you? Nature, never wanting to become complacent with my work, my incredible wife and baby on the way!
Who are your favorite artists and why? Wow, this is a tough one because there are so many for different reasons. I’d have to say Ken Price and Ron Nagle for the way they seamlessly marry color and form while infusing their work with such loaded content. Adrian Saxe is another, and was the artist whose work was the catalyst for me in choosing to pursue clay as a career. The way Adrian formally puts seemingly disparate objects together in a cohesive and witty way through the juxtaposition of the historical and pop-culture is, well…he’s the king of the crop there. I think Richard Notkin is brilliant and passionate and his fervor resonates in his work. I have to say, besides Nagle, I’ve had a chance to meet and talk at length with all of the above and they are all such amazing and brilliant artists and I consider myself extremely fortunate to have shared a conversation with each of them. Lee Bontecou and Andy Goldsworthy are other artists whose work I greatly admire.
What’s your favorite cuss word? I don’t think I have ever been asked that one…but I’d have to say the “F” bomb is the one I use the most… I’m a major news junkie so to hear me cursing at the TV with something like “those mother-effing republicans!” comment is the rule rather then the exception. LOL…I might have just pissed off some of my fellow artists but hopefully not.
What is your favorite pleasure? That’s a three part answer really. Obviously my true pleasure and passion is working with clay. But for times when I need to get out of the studio and I’ve got a lot of energy I love to play hockey. I just spent the past six years in upstate NY so I had a chance to play lots of ice hockey and now that I’m back in SoCal I’m out playing inline hockey three times a week. My other passion is scuba diving. I’ve been diving for about 20 years now and have been fortunate enough to travel and dive with my wife throughout the Caribbean and recently Fiji. Next up is a 10 day live-aboard trip in the Bahamas diving with tiger sharks…without a cage!!! I guess to conclude this answer, it’s like what I stress to my students…get out there and see the world, experience other cultures and soak in as much information as you can. Eventually elements of those travels will trickle down into your work. It may not be obvious, but those experiences will resonate in what you make.
What would you say to someone just getting started in ceramics who asks you for advice? My advice is to be a sponge…soak up and ingest as much information as you can. Go to workshops and lectures, ask questions, learn outside your comfort zone and take chances…you’ll learn more from making bad work then from making safe and easy work. The southern California clay scene is loaded with amazing educators and artists and its gallery and museum accessibility is top notch so there is no excuse for not absorbing as much as you can and then some!
What is your feeling on the artist as activist, Artivism? and the “handmade” movement? Hmmm…well there is a lot in this question. In regards to the “handmade” issue, I think there is a resurgence in the appreciation of objects crafted by hand because we exist in a culture of mass production and the loss of the makers hand in objects. I think websites like Etsy’s are great for artists trying to reach a wide audience but it’s a double edge sword too because there is no quality control so for all of the good work there is a lot of bad work being peddled as well. Of course this is subjective and my opinion only. It’s really tricky though because how do you convince someone who is blasé about this subject? Why should they pay a hundred bucks for say a Tom Coleman yunomi (my example because I jut did this!) when they can get a whole tea set at Wal-Mart for ten bucks? This is a tough battle that I certainly don’t have an answer for. I guess it’s really up to us as makers to maintain a high standard of what we put out there in the world and educate our viewers and hope they can appreciate it. I will say that there is no greater honor then when someone who does not know you is willing to drop hard earned money on something you create whether it is twenty dollars or two thousand.
Hey i got a Tom Coleman for $80! I collect mugs and yunomi's and enjoy picking which I will use on a given morning, makes that morning cup even better than the Walmart special. Your work has almost a cellular organism feel which fascinates me and I love the tactile quality, can you tell me about what drives you to create these creatures? This body of work really emerged out of my time in graduate school and the ideas are really the same, I just continue to refine the work. I would say that the objects I make are hybrids, an amalgamation of influences ranging from ocean life to botanical, investigating ideas of defense mechanisms, territoriality, and vulnerability with the emphasis that these objects are really an extension and a metaphor for who I am as a person…a bit prickly on the outside but vulnerable on the inside. The work is really all about bravado.
What’s your favorite quote? That’s a tie between “I suffer from Republican induced Tourettes Syndrome.”~ Richard Notkin and “Where nature ends, art begins” ~ Richard Hirsch


Tracy McQueen said...

Marmoratus Nudicup, the piece shown in the last two images of this post, lives in our house and is one of the most thrilling additions to our collection. I can't say enough about Shane's work -- the craftsmanship is absolutely top-notch, and the results he achieves with the glazes are incredible. The feeling he communicates in his work is just so tangible: The suggestions of seductive woman, prickly worm, hungry mouth, menacing arch...I literally can't take my eyes off it at times. I am so proud to have hosted a show for him in my short-lived gallery in Pennsylvania. Best of luck to Shane and family in California!

Chris McCormick said...

Thanks for sharing Tracy!

MAKUstudio said...

Wow! I love your work! Great interview!

Shane said...

Thank you all for the kind words,and thank you Chris for the interview!

Laney said...

Nice work there. Very inspirational.

Watch out for those tiger sharks in the Bahamas!

Apple Bakers

shoshonasnow said...

Alright Shane! Great interview! Glad (and a bit jealous now that the cold is starting here in NY) that your back in Cali. Looking forward to seeing some new work with all that sunny inspiration...or sharky inspiration.

Great blog by the way!!