Casey Whittier

Artist Statement

My work is often born from one of the following experiences: an indescribable feeling of excitement; a nagging contradiction of desire; a need to share something that I cannot yet explain; an obsession; a question or series of questions; a desire to respond to or reflect on a thought, feeling, or event; the recognition of something poignant or absurd; the experience of misunderstanding.

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to cast-off objects and quiet spaces — to the things stuck in the corner, at the bottom of the pile. Objects aid us in our humanity: they enhance our existing abilities, offer new opportunities, communicate values, serve as cultural symbols. These inconspicuous objects — perpetrators of the mundane, of wonder, of mystery — are my starting point.

I am interested in an object’s ability to catalyze a story, to conjure up associations: past, present, future, real, fictional, or in-between. The objects in my work are culled from the everyday. Ubiquitous, these are objects of utility and familiarity, made strange by material qualities and formal execution. Through these shifts in material, presentation, and utility, I make space for the metaphorical and imaginative possibilities to rise to the surface.

I see each sculpture and installation as a way to advocate for a direct and tactile relationship with the world. An exploration of touch and intuitive making is deeply embedded in my studio practice and in the community-based projects that I do. Simultaneously, I work to honor my relationship to the earth by connecting my practice to a personal code of ethics as an artist of the ecosphere.

I re-purpose as much as possible: many of my pieces are made from the waste or reclaim of other artists. I reduce my energy and material use by once-firing, firing in small and efficient kilns, lowering and shortening firing temperatures through clay body formulation, and utilizing systems of building where small components come together to make larger works. My artistic research and teaching centers material qualities and systems of re-use. Most pertinently, I acknowledge that my practice is not without impact, that my consumption matters, and that my work as an artist and educator extends beyond the objects I produce.

Clay serves as palimpsest in my practice; I seek to exploit its inherent variations in surface and texture, its ability to mimic, to be thick, thin, ephemeral or permanent. The physical recordings that come through rolling, tearing, squishing, dipping, pushing, pinching and scratching become representations of touch, of thought, of time spent. I consider life in the Anthropocene to be relational: tenuous and thrilling, delicate and precarious, simple and complicated, wry and serious. I ask my work to embody these qualities.