Friday, April 1, 2011

Lisa Mathieson - Ceramic and Glass

Lisa Mathieson

Lisa C. Mathieson
St.Paul, MN

I grew up In Fergus Falls, MN.

I was fortunate to have been born into a family that valued that arts. As a young adult, I received a classical training in music. With this, came the rigorous demands for daily practice, and the fierce, utterly consuming need for self control during performances; I credit these qualities for having fine tuned me, they tempered me into the artist that I've become. In my 20's, I traded my horn for a paintbrush.

I received a degree in Fine Arts from Bethel University in 1988. In the following years I studied studio lighting/darkroom techniques at MCAD. I took graduate courses in poetry at the University of MN.

Currently, I live in Lowertown, St. Paul, where I am a resident and board member of the Tilsner Artists' Cooperative. I also hold a position on the board of the St. Paul Art Collective and serve as the collectives' liaison between the St. Paul Art Crawl and the Tilsner Artists' Co-op.

Tell me about your work? What are you currently working on? How is this different from past projects?
My work has gone through multiple changes over the years, most notably in terms of medium. I tend to revisit themes, and this is true across genre, as well as across media. At present I am working in both glass and porcelain.

I discovered porcelain in 2005. I throw and hand build. The discovery of glass followed about two or three years after that. I fuse, cast, slump and cold-work glass. There is always the challenge, when working with mediums like glass and porcelain, for the artist to rise above the perceived 'preciousness' inherent in the material.

It is the truth, that commonly held ideas regarding specific materials, can preclude the viewers perceptions.
This can ultimately determine the works' significance/value for the viewer, before s/he has even really looked at it. So part of my work as an artist, is about acknowledging this fact, and then doing my best to defy that perception.

Porcelain is particularly conducive to this challenge, due to it's raw, bone-like frailty. When thrown on the wheel, it can be worked until it's quite thin. It can be made strong, however, through compression; in much the same way that glass can be made strong, through annealing. Much of my work speaks to broken-ness; both literally and metaphorically.

On the literal side, many of my current porcelain pieces feature hand-build bony appendages, that function as handle-like structures, on the sides of wheel thrown vessels. This gives the vessels both functional elements and sculptural elements. I do not differentiate, for myself, between whether the handles are there to be functional, or if the entire vessel is a sculpture. That is the viewer's purview. I like that the pieces can be used in which ever way the user intends.

And metaphorically, of course, artists have been speaking to the brokenness of our persons, our tribes, our cultures, since time immortal. And maybe, that is the artists' purpose; to hold a mirror to society, to be a reflection of the time in which we live.

"What is Art?" is certainly too big of a question to ask here, but what do you hope your audience takes away from your art? What statement do you hope to make?

This is a difficult question.

I would hope that the viewer might see a bit of themselves in my work. I would hope that they might be inspired to create a bit of their own art. If nothing else, I would hope, that at the very least, the viewer could take home the understanding that one individual, functioning within the larger context of an in an increasingly fractured society, could seek the possibility of 'wholeness,' or perhaps, even 'redemption,' in the making of art.

What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
Work. Work Every Day. And Be Authentic.

Tell me about your work space and your creative process.
I live in an Artists' loft in Lower town, St.Paul. The building is called the Tilsner Artists' Co-op. It used to be the Tilsner Carton Factory. I have been here about four years. I love it. It suits me. And it suits the way in which I work.

A live/work space is unique, in that, one has a studio built right into their living space. It is no longer necessary, then, to leave the actual physical space to work. This is essential for me. I work best in the early morning hours, straight out of bed.

Because I am generally taking classes at the Northern Clay Center, my study with the porcelain is a bit more focused, and occasionally assignment driven, but not always.

On days when it is not, and when I can really play and discover, these are the days in my studio that I live for! I might start by simply rolling out some clay, cutting out a pieces, and playing with a few different textures. Within a certain amount of time a few different structures will begin to emerge. Eventually, I hit on something that interests me, and I run with it.

This could be the beginning of new direction. It could shatter into 1,000 other directions! Or, in could just be a flop. Who knows? Every day is an adventure!
Throwing is different. Throwing is like music to me. It is a discipline; with a profoundly gratifying rhythm.

Even if one were to reach 'technical proficiency,' on the wheel, the chances of reaching 'artistic mastery' would be slim to non-existent. At least as I see it. The world is just too big. When I work with glass, the process is different. I'm not sure why. It involves discovery, of course; and play is every bit as important to my process.

Possibly, the 'idea development' is a bit more involved, or perhaps, it's related to the fact that the glass involves multiple firings, in addition to shaping, grinding and polishing, Perhaps it's related to cost. It's hard to say. . .

A small piece of glass that becomes a pendent, may, in fact, have 8 to 10 layers of glass in it. It may have spent 54 hours heating, and some 60 hours annealing and cooling; That is 114 hours total in the kiln. It has been cut on a tile saw with a diamond sintered blade. And ground into shape on a diamond grinder.

All these diamonds get rather expensive!
Maybe it's a piece I particularly liked and I put hours into polishing it by hand.

My best ideas, and indeed, sometimes, my best work; is often the result of, either the times when I let myself go and stop thinking analytically, or when I make a really awful mistake, the work turns out to be stunningly beautiful.

Who are some of the Minnesota artists you enjoy?
It would be literally impossible to mention all the MN clay artists that I admire. At the
Northern Clay Center alone, where I take classes, there are very many.

A friend of mine from Fergus,
Kirk Williams, has some pretty incredible stuff! His pastels are saturated and stunning. And his sculptures! Wonky! Irreverent! 110% memorable!

The truth is, that I live on such an incredible block, I could find about a million things to look at, without even stepping off it!

On this block alone. . . .

Joe Paquet, a traditional Plein Aire Landscape Painter, has a studio in the commercial area of the Northern Warehouse. He teaches me something new every time he opens his mouth. He is simply amazing. And so willing to share his considerable knowledge.

I enjoy
Kara Hendershot. Her work is incredibly haunting; surrealistic at times. Spirited. Challenging.

Leo Kim is a photographer who lives in our building. He makes stunning work.

James Ramsey also lives in our building. James is a wedding photographer. He is my go-to-guy, when it comes to photographing my work for grants, scholarships, etc.

We have another potter in our building who makes really cool ceramic sculpture.
Texas Teena. I admire her work because she so seamlessly incorporates her passions for beetles, into her work as an artist. Plus, she can draw like no one I've ever seen.

I really could go on and on. There are so very many talented artists in lower town.

I should mention the
Black Dog Coffee Shop and Wine Bar.

The music just get better and better.
The Fantastic Merlins have kind of become a sort of house band. Check out the schedule.

If I were to follow you around to see art in Minnesota, which places would we go? What would we see?
There is just so much to do in the cities. We are very lucky to live here! I love the big museums, of course, but I also just love just puttering around with my sketchbook; particularly when I travel, I'll just go to gallery after gallery.

Here, in the cities, I tend to frequent places like the
Grand Hand or Altered Esthetics; smaller galleries.

Right now I'm spending the first part of my mornings looking through ceramic/glass publications, just looking, absorbing different styles; then, on most days, I go to the Northern Clay Center to work for the better part of the day. I often finish out the day listening to live music, or working on glass pieces.

I try to work in some time for sketching every day. I often sketch at the cathedral, or somewhere here in lower town. It's important to always draw, no matter what discipline one studies within the larger perimeters of visual art, you still need to constantly work on your seeing and drawing skills.

Where do you go online for good art resources, whether to find a new artist, or to see what is going on in the art world locally and otherwise?

Do you have any exhibits to promote in the near future? (2011)
Of course, being the Art Crawl coordinator for the
Tilsner Building Studio #509, I am very excited about the upcoming crawl. (April 29 - May 1)

It's always a mad rush towards the end, and inevitably, there are raging fires to extinguish, both before, and during the crawl. It's a rare opportunity, however, to meet new artists and make friends, so I do enjoy it.

Also, my glass work is now being sold at the
MN History Center Museum Store. I'm thrilled about this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lisa's work is just outstanding and she's totally, totally a lot of fun.