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Age and lack of time was a constant problem for my family and a personal concern for myself growing up, maybe because I am the only person in my family under the age of 55. Lack of energy became neglect for my family’s 142-year-old farm and 40-year-old tire business. Growing up, I became all too familiar with visions of decay in what once had been a thriving place of growth and order.
My aging family’s lack of energy was a main ingredient in the state of decay but economic flux and failure to keep up with the times were also to blame. Witnessing this decline planted a seed of desire to see progress and a way out from the current state of things. “Ad-hocism” and off-the-cuff construction using materials that were readily at hand to solve utilitarian problems became a wellspring of inspiration and creative opportunity for me. Growing up, fences, roofs, mailbox stands, gate latches, and feed troughs name but a few of the things made from old tires I found; from tarps made from inter-tubes to chairs made of steel wheels, the list could go on.
As an artist, I continue the essence of my family’s ingenuity combined with my physical and mental need to improve and build. In some of my recent sculptures, I make use of tire parts linked and woven into forms that simultaneously seem to be on the verge of falling apart while having a noticeable structural integrity. I hope to portray to the viewer a foretaste of the atmosphere from which the resources came and a sense that a new possibility for the materials is being found. The idea of struggle and acceptance of limitations and failures in the construction process can be seen in my work and serve as important references to the reality of what is possible as I quest for new possibilities. These intentions spill over into my ceramic work with the tower-like forms built from loops of clay, mimicking the shape of tires. Juxtaposing play, structure, and defiance against forces that overwhelmingly oppose their creation is a goal of mine.
I strive to create works that have an open ending or a kind of ambiguous existence, leaving the viewer free to impose their own narrative on the forms. As guiding rails to that narrative, I implant elements of hope, somberness, playfulness, and urgency. An influence on this approach is historic Cabinets of Curiosity that speak on the nature of wonder and humanities desire to both understand and not know. Indeed wonder is very often found in the things we feel a kind of connection to without having an understanding.
Alwyn O’Brien‘s ceramic work has also been an influence of mine in terms of its playfulness, fragility and urgency. Sterling Ruby and Leonardo Drew are also large influences on my work due to the raw and unkempt aesthetic of their sculptures along with conceptual themes of masculinity and its fragility.
Christopher M. Lavery
Ceramic sculptures and repurposed tires.
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Kinsland, John Jarrett, "Stagnation Transfiguration" (2016). B.F.A. Practicum Exhibition (ART 498). 4.