filed under: art, clay, let's chat!
i like to see pretty and edgy put together in art, and if it’s bright, ironic, feminine or makes a contemporary statement about society, i am all for it. you can imagine why my head nearly flipped off with delight then, when i saw the humorous and intriguing ceramic collection of shalene valenzuela. at first glance i admired shalene’s skillful command of her chosen medium, her layered style, and all the vintage shapes and molds she uses. after gazing for a little while longer though, the forms fall away to reveal secrets, histories and legacies which tell very strong, up-to-the-minute stories. let’s have a chat with shalene and find out a little more…
q: where do you live, and where do you create your art?
a: i currently live in missoula, montana. i lived in oakland, ca for several years (i am a california native), and moved up here to start a long term artist residency a year ago. i will be in missoula for at least another year, then we shall see!
q: what is your background, and did you study art formally?
a: i have a BA in art practice, and a MFA in ceramics. i have been an active studio artist for several years, and have taught many classes, mainly in ceramics.
q: what is it about clay as a medium that appeals to you most? and (without giving away any secrets of course!) can you tell us a little about the techniques you use?
a: i love the transformative qualities clay has. there’s such a wide variety of work that people have executed using the very same materials that i do: we all speak the same technical language, but the aesthetic range is amazing. my work is mainly slipcast, and i draw/paint using underglaze, and sometimes use screenprint transfers in my works, using underglaze as the printing medium. my work sort of borders on the trompe l’oeil aesthetic, but in more of a “cartoonish” manner. i want the object to be recognized, but my illustrations compose it into something else entirely. for the most part, i make my own molds, unless of course, i run across a commercial mold that is way too ridiculous to pass up.
q: i see throughout your collection a very strong theme of women in contemporary society. has your work always had feminine motifs? how has it transformed since you started making art?
a: my work always had some element of a feminine motif in it. i have always tried to combine humor with a deeper message in it, and i think as i have grown older, i have gained more of an understanding why these topics and image styles interest me. i use “dated” imagery, yes, but these images conjure up many issues that are still pertinent today, not only for women, but for society as a whole.
another thing i was thinking about recently… i loved to draw at a very young age, and as my character rendering skills developed, i noticed even the male characters i drew had a soft feminine edge to them, so i sort of gave up on drawing guys. even now, it takes a bit more focus for me to draw the male characters i may put in some pieces.
q: what is the price range of your collection?
a: from as little as $15 for ceramic teabags to about $3999 for my largest piece – 99 bottles of beer. but most of my stuff is in the “affordable” range – reasonably priced functional items, and most my sculptures are below $500, unless they are large or complicated.
q: what is your inspiration for these works? do you have a message you want to send through these pieces?
a: i’d like to think that my body of work consists of quirky pieces that reflect upon a variety of issues with a thoughtful, yet humorous tone. i am inspired by the potential of everyday common objects. i reproduce these objects in clay through handbuilding, slipcasting, or a combination of the two, and illustrate the surfaces with a variety of handpainted and screenprinted imagery. i primarily obtain my imagery from remnants of the past (instructional guides, advertisements, family photos, tall tales), and reconstruct the images in order to convey my narrative. these narratives generally deal with topics ranging from fairytales, urban mythologies, societal expectations, etiquette, and coming-of-age issues. stylistically, much of my imagery is pulled from sources around the 1950’s era. through advertising, common objects were embraced in the most royal fashion, and through television and print, images of the “perfect americana life” were portrayed. i use these images in a manner that can deal with ageless topics.
q: where can we go to see your collection in person? are you currently exhibiting in any shows or is there anything else meaningful you would like to tell us?
a: my studio is currently at the clay studio of missoula in my studio and our sales gallery, but i am in several shows and whatnot now and coming up. in missoula, i will have wall works in a solo display at bernice’s bakery in the month of june, a piece in the missoula now! show at the ceretana in september, a solo show at the clay studio of missoula in october, and a solo show at the catalyst in december. elsewhere in montana, you can find small works at b civilized in livingston.
back in the bay area, i currently have work up in a group show at the grand theater center for the arts in tracy, at the natsoulas gallery in davis. i will have a piece in a group show at ruby’s clay studio in san francisco starting in late june, and will have a solo exhibit and sale at cricket engine studio and gallery in oakland (this is my former studio, where I used to serve as gallery manager). also, i am excited to be in two consecutive shows at santa fe clay in new mexico – the first is bling, opening this week (may 23rd – june 21st)! the best bet is to always check my site for updates. i do have several things in the works, and try to make updates regularly!
thank you shalene!