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Artist Statement: Pottery
     When I was growing up, my family had a way of holding on to broken pots, tools and utensils that went beyond mere thrift. There was an unspoken sense that the wares of our everyday lives had a significance to them, that damage and wear didn’t necessarily detract from an object, and that the improvised solution (of say, a particular plate as the replacement lid for a saucepan) was a good solution. I remember in particular the chipped ironstone platter whose glaze was crazed and deeply stained from serving decades of bloody roasts.
      In high school, I became interested in ceramics out of a kind of Emersonian desire for self-reliance, imagining the independence I would have by producing the objects of my own daily life. The material transformation of ceramics fascinated me, and as I continued pursuing clay working in college, my focus became more about the surface and my work became more sculptural. I still loved pots, and I was always a consumer and user of pots. As a student, I worked alongside people who became great potters, and I envied their creative rhythm and the connection they made with their users (as opposed to “viewers”). Over the years, I learned more about pots from eating and drinking from them (and washing them) than I had from making them.
     When a pot is right, it becomes like an extension of your body, alive in your hands. Picking it up, it feels something like when you pick up a child or an animal that wants to be held. When the balance isn’t there, it’s like using a pair of wrong-handed scissors. When I make pots I strive for that “rightness” in how they feel, but the best I can say is that I am sensitive to it, and all too aware of its absence if I fall short.
     I want my pots to fit into their users’ lives with a sense of humility and ease of use, but also with mystery, wonder, humor, and serendipity, like a three-legged cat that follows you home and unexpectedly becomes a member of your family.

John Utgaard 2018
Artist Statement: Sculptural Works

     I have always had vivid dreams, and though I have never been a religious or superstitious person, I have always believed that my dreams had significance. The fact that there are large parts of myself that I can’t experience in waking life is deeply fascinating and disturbing to me, and it motivates much of my work as an artist.    
      I think of the things I make as geological, biological and psychological relics, as if my mind were a site of excavation. Wet clay records the work of our hands and reflects the softness of our bodies as well as the plasticity of our thoughts. When we fire it, it becomes like a fossil—hard, dead and stony, but with the evidence of a time when it was soft and alive in someone’s hands. I am attracted to how clay can speak of our living bodies but at the same time of our mortality and of the span of geologic time.

© 2018 John Utgaard All Rights Reserved