Breckenridge gallery presents work of Colorado ceramic artist
IF YOU GO
Who: Artist Carol Fennell
What: View Fennell’s newest works in ceramics
When: Friday, Dec. 25 through Thursday, Jan. 14
Where: Art on a Whim Gallery, 100 N. Main St. Breckenridge
Ceramic arts are one of the oldest known art forms. Ceramics are so important to the history of mankind that many ancient cultures are defined by the pottery they left behind. The ceramic medium dates back roughly 20,000 years. With such an extensive and widespread history, it is extremely difficult for an artist to develop a style that is entirely their own, but Carol Fennell has done just that.
So often ceramics are associated with plates, bowls, mugs and other functional works of art. Her work combines sculpting and painting to present itself as purely decorative works of fine art.
Hailing from Colorado, she is inspired by her beautiful surroundings. She has managed to work her ancient medium into wonderful stylized replications of the natural world. In her piece titled “Forest Wall,” five aspen trunks are sculpted with a uniqueness and grace that speaks perfectly to the same unique and graceful characteristics the real trees possess. In “Wonderland,” playful pine trees are sculpted before a backdrop of carved mountains and a flowing river. The piece seems to undulate with the same texture and rhythm as the natural world.
“With mountains, aspens and pines in my constant view, I seek to use the strongest, yet simplest form to represent my subject,” Fennell said in a statement. “I never tire of drawing the elegant lines of aspen or the whimsical pines that fill my canvas. All these subjects have stories to tell, and I try to bring a bit of the innocence that I see in them into every piece.”
Her work stems from the pure, trouble-free and serene moments one finds themselves experiencing while walking through an aspen grove, climbing a peak or discovering a new lake. When inspiration strikes while on a hike, she will either sketch the landscape en plein air or capture the scene on camera. The sketches and photos are transformed into more polished pencil drawings upon her return to her studio. Quick and bright strokes of color are added to the drawings to further enhance the reference.
The real work begins when she pulls out slabs of clay and rolls them into canvas-sized blocks. Lines forming rivers, lakes or mountains are carved into the surface of the wet slabs and her bas relief work has commenced. Through the incorporation of sculpted clay, layers of texture are added to the top of the initial block to provide dimension. From here, pines start twisting towards each other, seemingly lost in conversation. Knots are added to aspen trunks, resembling the eyes we swear we see on the trees. Items found in nature, such as grass, leaves or bits of wood, are often pressed into the wet clay to leave the impression of their existence in the natural world.
Upon completing her process of carving and sculpting, Fennell will allow her work to dry for several weeks. This allows moisture to evaporate from the once soft clay. Each piece is then carefully placed in a kiln and fired. The sculpted tiles come out of the kiln bisque ware, as a durable ceramic piece ready to be painted. Her use of acrylic paints pushes the limits of traditional ceramic work. This choice allows for vibrant colors, helping to enhance the happy, playful look she is striving to create.
She received a 4.0 GPA and a Masters of Fine Arts from Northern Illinois University just over 20 years ago. Early in her career, she served as a scenic artist for the film “A League of Their Own.” Today, she has work represented in corporate collections throughout the United States and her work has been featured in several museum shows. She currently has an exhibition of brand new works hanging at the Art on a Whim Gallery in downtown Breckenridge. The show begins Friday, Dec. 25.
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