Virgina A. Groot Foundation

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Elise Siegel
2016 3rd Place recipient

My current project is a series of highly expressive ceramic portrait busts. They vary stylistically as well as in terms of scale, surface and glaze, and my visual inspiration comes from a wide range of sources. I am most drawn to figurative sculptures that appear to have had some other cultural function, either in ritual or in daily life, in addition to their being creative expressions – objects that humans have empowered – idols, reliquaries, masks and even toys. I have taken formal cues from the abstracted features and exaggerated forms of the Jomon dogu figures of Neolithic Japan, as well as the hollow eyes of terracotta Haniwah funeral figures from the third to sixth century AD. For me, these sculptures, everything from Renaissance reliquary busts, to African masks, continue to resonate, as their meaning evolves over time. Although each of my sculptures is a distinct individual, they are not portraits of specific people. Rather, they are meant to embody a psychic state familiar to the viewer, but also to be open-ended, allowing for a wide range of projections, reflecting what the viewer brings to the encounter. In this work, I am attempting not only to imbue each piece with the immediacy of human experience, but to find a way, through the process of making, to allow each sculpture to project a sense of its own hidden life.


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