This month in The Art League Gallery, the sculpture exhibit “The Shape of Things” is showing alongside the predominantly 2-D landscape show, “’Scapes.” Sculptors in the exhibit used materials including plywood, bronze, silk, steel, paper mache, and clay — the last is the preference of Trinka Roeckelein, whose Giraffe Boy was selected for the Monkith Saaid Sculpture Award by juror Mara Adamitz Scrupe. We asked Trinka to tell us more about her work with clay, the series Safari in Clay that Giraffe Boy is part of, and her artwork in general.
Why do you work in clay? Do you use other media?
Trinka: I choose to work in clay because of the way it feels, its tireless unpredictability, the limitless possibilities for surface treatment and glazing, and the technical challenges it presents. I admire the sheer fragility it incorporates into the finished piece. Clay both fascinates and frustrates me. There is much experimentation and testing required to construct complicated forms in large dimensions, as well as the search to find the appropriate finishes.
In regards to other media, I was a free-lance digital artist in video and print for many years. In the early 1990s, my graduate thesis focused on the Macintosh computer as an assemblage, montage and design tool used to scan and manipulate my own photographs into digital prints and ceramic objects. This marked the beginning of my interest in human and animal forms.
Tell us about your series Safari in Clay — where did the idea come from?
After several trips to Botswana, I continue to relive the safari experience in my memory and artwork. I was captivated by the animals … their shapes, sizes, movements, sounds … and began creating animals in clay. The process differs vastly from how I had previously worked, as I now sculpt from memory or photographs taken on safari. The sculptures are larger, maybe an influence from the sheer vastness so evident in the African bush landscapes, which forms a challenge during firing. For Safari in Clay, each piece is one of a kind as opposed to multiples cast from a mold. The use of clay underlines a basic connection to the earth and emphasizes the ruggedness and uncertainty of the finished artwork, which complements a similar one of a kindness intrinsic in nature — the wildness of the animals and the snapshots in time they inspire.
Read more after the jump!
How do the more realistic animal sculptures fit in with the ones not based in reality, like Giraffe Boy? Was there a particular inspiration for Giraffe Boy and the hybrid pieces like it?
As urban environments encroach steadily upon nature, the interaction between animals and people increases. I am fascinated by these complicated and congested spatial relationships and the fantasy that arises out of those connections.
What materials, treatments, etc., went into Giraffe Boy?
I made Giraffe Boy using a high fire clay body that I painted with engobes, slips, underglazes and dusted with powdered clay. I fired the piece to cone 2. Then I repeatedly repainted with underglazes and oxides and did multiple firings to cone 04 until I achieved the desired surface treatment.
What do you think makes a successful sculpture?
That is a very individual and personal question. For me, a successful sculpture, or work of art, makes me want to look at it again and again. And I find at this point in my life, I am drawn to pieces that promote feelings of curiosity, peace, and reflection as opposed to angst and pain.
What do you want the viewer of Giraffe Boy to come away with?
My hope is to evoke a positive feeling of respite from the hustle and bustle of city existence and remind the viewer of the wondrous variety of nature.
What are you working on now?
I am building on a theme that suggests the world and its inhabitants are all connected, in a larger sense, and share the same space, in a smaller sense. The works combine form, gesture, and characteristics of animals, humans and nature. The pieces emphasize the hybrid elements and thus are less realistic. I am also experimenting with low fire clay bodies.