Leah Bowring and Katie Swan
Leah Bowring received her BA in ceramics and BFA in graphic design from Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri in 2011. During her undergraduate study, she spent a year in Tokyo studying Japanese language, historical ceramics, traditional theater and architecture. She was a pupil of Koiichi Koyama, an accomplished Japanese potter. She conducted personal research studying traditional Japanese kilns and wares, traveling throughout Japan while she taught English in the time between her formal degrees. She received her MFA in ceramics in May 2015 and now lives in Oakland, California and makes her work in Berkeley. She worked as an Operations Manager at a 300+ artist community art center The Potters’ Studio in Berkeley, California for two years. She currently is a professor of ceramics at City College of San Francisco.
Katie Swan’s work is an exploration of the harmony which can be found the tension of corporeal conception. Her mode of communicating through clay illustrates the visceral links to the self within the mind and body. She grew up in Southern California and fell in love with ceramic art in high school. After studying Sociology and Political Science at UCLA and competing on the track team she traveled to Denmark to work as an artist assistant. As a mostly self-taught artist she finds her inspiration from movement. When observing any movement, from the grass blowing in the wind, to the fluidity of a belly dancers body, curves, rifts, valleys, landscapes all tell a story of where that thing has been and the enjoyment in the imagery. Katie is currently pursuing her MFA in Studio Art at MILLS College in Oakland, California. “‘The more I make art, the greater I understand my physical self”. Katie shows how her sculptural forms are a way of processing the world around her, her own body, the natural and manmade world. Her forms are alive with this process of interpreting, digesting and discovering.
Leah Bowring: Through the moments of this work, I am pondering the aspects of clay that make it resilient, vulnerable, and transitory. Wet clay has not yet become permanent—it has not yet reached its period of eternal slumber—it is volatile and full of potential. This body of work explores these temporal stages of clay and how complete the material is in mimicking the changes of the surfaces of one’s physical body.
Clay, unlike ceramics, has the power to recreate itself and record the emotional process of moving through the stages of life. It is messy, always evolving and alive. Our purpose is not to manicure, refine and edit the moments of formation, but to capture breath, pulse, and imperfection.
We are reminded that our bodies are similarly shells that hold life. Once they have dried up, the opportunity for movement has ended. We embrace the liquid life that allows both human body and clay to continually transform.
With these works, we finally resurrect fired, stagnant clay forms by continually adding layers of wet clay to their surfaces. We also do this with our own bodies as ritual to remind us that clay provides life, newness, and daily armor.
Clay can be broken over and over again. Yet its brokenness is newness, not end.
Katie Swan: My current focus on collaboration and installation is grounded in my history as an elite discus thrower, and yogi. I move through clay and the physical body to arrive at the emotional body. I shifted away from creating on the table, to performing with clay on the floor and began engaging my whole body to respond to hundreds of pounds of material. What’s left becomes a sculptural poem as fossilized record of movement.
This year there was a shift from the sculptural objects to the ephemerality of material and a physical output. I quickly realized the significance of video and photographic documentation. By leaving behind the marks of engagement with the material, the viewer also becomes the witness and record keeper of the piece.
Currently, clay allows me to explore a symbiotic connection in the complex relationship to the fragility of body, place, cycles, and form. I am investigating where an explosive emotional experience goes when my body won’t contain it. I acknowledge the erosion of the body, its cyclical return to the earth, and the end to our physical state. I bring a contemporary vantage point to the sacred bodily experience and the labor of existing.