"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." Mia Mulvey
The process of laser cutting Keraflex Porcelain before firing, is yet another groundbreaking addition to the world of possilities achievable with this versatile clay medium.
In Mast Year, Mia has used a variety of processes and materials in combination. It is the delicate laser cut Keraflex butterflies that create the focal point in this work. Offset as they are by the rustic finish on the tree and the solidity of the slip cast birds. The butterflies appear almost impossibly delicate. When viewing this work we need to be reminded that this IS clay, but clay that enables work that previously could only be dreamed of.
Keraflex may give the impression that it is easy to work with, and it is for simple processes. However, artists who have experience in working with, and firing porcelain, particularly thin porcelain sheets, will find that Keraflex offers them in particular a whole new world of unforseen possibilities.
Keraflex Porcelain results like Mia's are perhaps deceptive. Here only sheer mastery could have created something this technically complex, with such delicacy and simplicity.
"The work I create is based on the ideas of discovery and wonder. These ideas are present both as concepts in my work as well as guides for my studio process and research. In Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Albertus Magnus defined wonder as “the movement of the man who does not know on his way to finding out, to get at the bottom of that which he wonders and to determine its cause." (1)
Under this definition, wonder is not a static moment; it is the moment of inspiration through the act of learning and discovering the truth. This process is a big part of my studio practice and culminates in the research I must do in order to gain the knowledge to complete a body of work. This research is often combined with poetic fiction to allow for the wonder and discovery to continue. This is particularly true in my early work where the lines between fact and fiction were blurred. It is this intersection between art and science, it’s history, advancements, and tools, that continually inspires me.
Most recently I continued my interest in installation, science and technology with a large-scale installation designed for the Denver Art Museum. Curator, Gwen Chanzit, invited me to create a site-specific work for the exhibition Overthrown: Clay Without Limits.
The challenge of working at such a large scale was exciting and the piece, titled Mast Year, is my largest project to date. 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 were more than 800 butterflies and moths that were part of the installation. In addition, I created a life-size Oak tree using various techniques such as handbuilding and bark molds taken from live trees. The installation also included birds, sculpted and slipcast from museum photographs and Dutch still-life paintings.
I chose the Oak, America’s National Tree, because it 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. Lacking life and using forms present in death such as bird “skins” and insect mounts, the connection between the tree and the fauna (pins and cable ties) highlight the forced, unnatural attempts to recreate the sublime by using synthetic, man made modes of connection.
Historically, 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 things right." Mia Mulvey
1. As quoted by Stephen Greenblatt in Marvelous Possessions (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1991), 81
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