I have been working with partial, totemic and apotropaic figures.
Hermai, totems for the messenger god Hermes, began as piles of rocks at sacred places to Hermes -like a crossroad or a boundary or the entrance to a house. The piles evolved into a rectangular pillar or herma (4 being sacred to Hermes) surmounted by a portrait bust of the god and appropriately placed genitalia. Herms are apotropaic, protecting from evil and drawing fertility and luck.
Recently, I use the herm template with the three male figures – representing three stages of attitude. The penis is in a partnership with figure and gives insight into his internal state. In other work I combine the herm with both human and animal forms.
Les Vieilles Dames (the ancient women) or The Moirai – The Fates, daughters of Necessity are the point of departure for these female figures in iron skirts. The skirt provides a cue for the more public forms above it and more private or concealed Issues inside it.
Both are symbolic and historical constructs that allow for layered abstractions of both the exterior and the interior emotional worlds of the figure.
Clay is a worthy sculpture medium and a compelling and sort of mythical agent for constructing the figure. I am dedicated to the medium of clay and bound to the subject of the figure. There is a kind of collaboration with both elements that I enjoy. It is always the growing physical presence of a piece and my partnership with the clay that informs my aesthetic choices. I want the content of a piece, the interior world the figure inhabits, to be seen in the exterior body and I look for an abstraction or emotional anatomy to occur. I am often surprised by unintended layers of meaning the figure can hold though I think I have plumed conceptual depths and worked out my intentions on paper.
Clay and the figure have fundamental traditions and rituals that adhere firmly to their study and practice. Having learned and conformed to the conventions of each I was allowed push at those boundaries and use craft in service to a less prescribed aesthetic. I use a mix of wheel thrown, press molded, life cast and hand built elements. The glazes are generally matte and opaque, often many layers of engobe and terra sigelata arriving at a kind of ancient surface. I sometimes add steel or glass to enhance or aid in the structure of a piece. Fusing different forms of construction within the same medium and assenting to several firings allows me to work happily within the traditions and cycles inherent to clay.
Lisa Osborn, 2012
“(Artists) who deny themselves the representation of life and limit their language to purely abstract forms, are depriving themselves of the possibility of provoking more than an aesthetic emotion.” Lucien Freud