alternate landscapes

2017, For Home Forty Five Ten, Dallas, TX


Excerpts from a Paper City interview with Natalie Gempel, October 2017

What are your biggest inspirations?

The show at For Home Forty Five Ten features two series. swell draws on traditions of particular wall-mounted pottery such as Moorish braseros & general high relief, tiled architectural decoration. shove is a response to swell, closed instead of open, reminiscent of garniture. There are also examples from a third series, square cubed. I try to wrench these tiles from two dimensions into three dimensions by unfolding each tile to a cube. Then the sides slip. Thrown out of balance, the result is an ungrounded sculpture, or a drawing with six sides, no front or back.


Do you begin a work with something specific in mind for the end product, or does the process drive that?

swell indicates what I had in mind – a swollen pot whose exterior suggests more than its interior provides. A pot that is full of itself. That can be surprising, absurd, & beautiful. shove indicates what I had in mind too – I strike a blow to each pot. I give it a shove to deflate it unlike the full volume of swell. I made the three forms of shove to allow for that. It wouldn’t work to shove swell.


Can you tell us a little bit about your process? What is the starting point?

Both swell & shove are drawn with a CAD program, then the parts are formed into clay sheets & assembled. They are double-walled, so the exterior offers a deceptive view of the interior volume. When still wet clay, shove gets shoved to settle into the ground & to create its folds. The starting point of swell was the Southern Rockies, then I continued to make this series in Provence, Dallas, & East Texas. shove followed in response to swell. The brick-red & dapple-colored pots are terra cotta with slip & glaze. The silver & white shove are whiteware with slip & glaze. The yellow & blue-gray swell are stoneware with glaze. The orange-gray-green pots & the black & brown tiles are wood-fired stoneware with slip.


What do you want your work to convey?

I try to convey what I notice in my imagination. Sometimes I notice line, volume, & color there. swell & shove are doubly hollow. There’s the hollow of the bowl or vase & the hollow within the double wall of the inflated swell or the deflated shove. These two series are a response to the experience of encountering alpine lakes & ridges, first from afar then gradually step by step on a hike to achieve these kinds of landmarks as penultimate or ultimate destinations. The details at the thin edge of the rim emphasize crossing a threshold or traversing a precipice.