I have long been a fan of Derek Weisberg‘s work and have had the pleasure of seeing it in person. There is a raw truthfulness present throughout his sculptures that I have always admired. I recently asked him to give me some insight into his latest show “Porcelain Promises.”
Just before moving to NY, I began using porcelain. Porcelain is just a kind of clay, but it is very fine, finicky, delicate, sensitive, and terrible to build sculpture with, because there is no real structural integrity to the clay. But I took it on (in part) as a challenge, to see if I could make my sculptures with the most difficult of ceramic materials. Also porcelain is just a beautiful material on its own. One can achieve incredible detail and sharpness while sculpting with porcelain, because of the very fine compact particles. When fired to the proper temperature it becomes very vitrified, with a low sheen, and is basically just very sexy!
I really loved using porcelain so I continued using it and exploring its possibilities when I got to NY. Because of its lack of structural integrity and its sensitivity, porcelain is prone to cracking. Which I also love as the cracks became metaphors or symbols of scars. The beautiful white of the porcelain became a wonderful ground to draw and paint on, and so I began doing that, giving the figures these “tattoos”.
Porcelain can also be colored with pigment and I began playing with coloring the clay and making images and imagery with the actual colored clay, almost like lamenated wood. I was and am enjoying all the possibilities in process, and outcomes that porcelain is providing.
“Porcelain Promises” refers to several ideas. For me porcelain conjures many ideas and references: a very sweet and delicate material, like when used in porcelain dolls, or a very high end, fine material, as in fine chinaware, a strong tradition as in delftware, or Mying dynasty objects, and it has incredible strength and integrity when fired properly. And ultimately, porcelain (and all the ideas mentioned that the material can stand for) is fragile and can be broken.
Derek is an accomplished sculptor with a vast portfolio of works. I encourage you to visit his website to see many more pieces, and read a great selection of interviews and reviews of his work. There is also an interesting studio visit at the impressive Greenwich House Pottery’s studio spaces by Kim Ronemus, where she stopped by Derek’s studio space and took some great photos of him working and the inspiration he’s placed around himself.Below are a few more images from his studio space taken by Derek….
Below are a few more images from his studio space taken by Derek….
…and a few more by the amazing photographer Shaun Roberts. (Follow Shaun on tumblr to catch a glimpse of his many artist studio visits and his unique view of the world.)
Derek also shared this photo… “For those of you wondering how one fires something so large.”
He was recently a participating artist at Pow Wow Hawaii 2012. This is a a gathering of 30 internationally renowned artists who over the course of a week create a vast array of works in full view of the public, allowing engagement and interaction between the artists and their audience. This event was well covered by Ken Harman for Hi-Fructose & Arrested Motion. Below is an in-progress photo of Derek’s sculpture with Jeff Hamada and Kamea Hadar, and Will Barras.
In other news, Derek will be in an upcoming group show in May called “Head Trip”, at the Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis. He will be showing many of his Grieving jars at that time. I asked Derek to give some insight into the meaning of these jars:
The Grieving Jars take initial inspiration from ancient Egyptian canopic jars. The ancient Egyptians in their death and burial rituals, would remove important organs and place them inside these canopic jars, each guarded by one of their gods. I really like the idea of ritual and death. In many ways ritual gives you a framework for dealing with death. Ritual can give you a kind of foundation, or a kind of support system, or a kind of schedule to help at a time when one can be completely lost and disoriented and grieving the loss of a loved one.
So my Grieving Jars have human heads depicting different states of grieving, instead of Egyptian gods. They can be functional and are intended to act as ritual objects. Being actual vessels, they also act as metaphor for philosophical ideas of body and spirit, and the connectedness or disjunction of these two.
You can follow Derek Weisberg’s work on Facebook and watch him work in this time lapse video from when he lived in California
Lastly, I give you this poignant self-portrait of Derek. Look at that studio… now look at him. The reasons I admire this guy are vast.