Left to His Own Devices
- Glazed Stoneware
- 79" x 56" x 2"
"I did a residency at the Millay Colony in Upstate New York and was finding relationships between found images in the bestiaries and animals I was seeing out my window. This piece came about while thinking of my own journey through fatherhood as I was redefining my understanding of masculinity, and what being a father is."
- Judd Schiffman
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Born and based in Providence, RI
Meticulously sculpted and psychologically charged, Judd Schiffman’s ceramic wall works intermix life experiences, cultural references, and historical imagery to probe how narratives are shaped. Drawing with clay, Schiffman makes glazed porcelain and stoneware tableaus with lively figures, fauna, and flora—each of which are installed on the wall as respective parts of a whole composition. The artist culls these eclectic motifs from children’s stories, modern art history books, YouTube cartoons, medieval manuscripts, and other sources that he encounters as a husband, father, and professor. The installations address layered themes ranging from myth-making to humanity’s relationship with nature.
The forms remain moveable within the frame that encircles each scene. Schiffman invites rearrangement of these pieces, which shifts the stories that his works tell: “The framed narratives open up a common ground where the viewer can enter into dialogue as a participant among the characters, objects, and landscapes,” as the artist explains. Schiffman’s embrace of ceramics and collaboration bridges earlier art movements: the reclamation of craft in the 1960s and ‘70s by artists who rejected stereotypical notions of pottery and textiles as domestic, feminine, or lowbrow; and the emergence of relational aesthetics in the 1990s as a genre of social art that empowers the viewer to take part in the work. Indeed, Schiffman integrates approaches from across 20th-century art history while meditating on the contemporary human condition.