New York-based sculptor Elisa Soliven investigates the ways in which the human form can act as a vehicle for formal and material transformations. Working primarily in clay, Soliven playfully combines the ancient process of ceramics to build heavily tactile, often abstracted contemporary portraits either pulling from memory or having friends sit for her. She then layers and manipulates the surface until a likeness becomes entirely abstracted, sometimes leaving the human form only recognizable through subtle suggestions of limbs. Looking to ancient structures and formal qualities, Soliven imbues her sculptural portraits with talismanic qualities.
Drawn to clay for its flexibility in making, ability to record touch, and level of durability, Soliven often incorporates found materials, including remnants from previous sculptures to create levels of visible history. The added irregular pieces of fired clay place the viewer in the role of an archeologist encountering elements from many time periods the deeper they peer. In all her work, Soliven looks to the frozen mark-making of ceramics as a mode of totem-making, both as symbols of connection and markers of time.
Soliven received an M.F.A. from Hunter College and a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College. She has shown at Analog Diary, Beacon, NY; Harper’s, East Hampton, NY; Sardine, Brooklyn, NY; Deanna Evans Projects, Brooklyn, NY; Arts & Leisure, NYC; Crush Curatorial, NYC; Andrew Rafacz, Chicago, IL; Essex Flowers, NYC, Hesse Flatow, NYC, and LABspace, Hillsdale, NY. She is a co-founder of the Brooklyn based artist collective Underdonk and Tappeto Volante Projects.
I aim to create work that is idiosyncratic and archaeological. I am drawn to ceramic for the immediacy with which it conveys the working process, and for the way in which it captures a sense of the ancient in the ordinary. The sculptures serve as a record of my inquiry to capture the essence of my subjects both figurative and abstract, as well as to preserve a frozen history of gestural mark-making. I symbolically transfigure the subject through an accumulation of modeled layers of clay, embedded ceramic, and found bits from previous works. Working with found materials and constructed forms, I rework the familiarity of the everyday object of the vessel into idiosyncratic inventions.