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Mast Year

14’ x 18’ x 1.5’
porcelain, stoneware, cable ties, pins
2011

The Oak, America’s National Tree, has long been a symbol of endurance and strength. The title, Mast Year, refers to the phenomenon in which Oak trees produce a prodigious abundance of fruit. This proliferation has been recreated with emblems of beauty and nature: birds, butterflies and moths. Using lifeless forms such as bird skins and insect mounts, and using synthetic, manmade modes of attaching the fauna to the tree, the work highlights the forced, unnatural attempts to recreate the sublime. Swarms and flocks and have been viewed as omens of both luck and death and such sights in nature are rare if not completely absent. For this installation I was interested in presenting repaired or lost natures. Efforts to repair and recreate reveal both wonder and absurdity through their relationships with history, museums, and personal experience. The ultimate goal of Mast Year is to invoke something beautiful yet dark, that speaks to the fragility of nature as well as the more poetic, undefined feelings of loss and the futile desire to put exert control. For this project I was interested in pushing my skills and exploring innovative ways to work with ceramics. This led me to research new ways of working with digital tools such as a laser cutter. Using Keraflex porcelain tape, I experimented with the laser cutter and developed a process to cut and handle the material to achieve pieces more delicate and exact than I could create by hand. The results of this research are more than 800 butterflies and moths that are part of the installation. In addition, I created the life-size Oak tree using various techniques such as handbuilding and bark molds taken from live trees. The installation also includes birds, sculpted and slipcast from museum photographs and Dutch still-life paintings.