Anna Wagner, Cabot, Arkansas
Ceramics Monthly: Who is your ideal audience?
Anna Wagner: This current body of work was created to promote a safe space for individuals to share their stories, experiences, and support around topics of invisible mental illnesses. My intentions are to bring people of different backgrounds together to look at my work and become aware of this topic and the voices that have been silenced. Within the past few years, art has given me the courage to have a voice that has for so long been ignored and systematically repressed. This has been the same case for many other individuals. My forms specifically shed light on the small, unseen, everyday moments that people have, whether awkward or poignant; mental illness affects everyone differently. I love to portray these experiences on my objects because it supports empathy and normalizes the constant daily chaos that we bottle up. For many of us, art has been the anchor of our sanity, that which saves us from ourselves and a world that puts us in the dark.
CM: What techniques do you use to make your work and why?
AW: Often each piece requires a new and different technique to make the vision come alive. Every time I create, it is always a learning experience. I start my work on the wheel, throwing each part separately to give shape and height. For some, I carve out shapes and then reapply them in a different area or put them on another piece I have made. While sculpting, I like to scribble, write, and doodle all over the base of the surface. This kind of mark making reflects my thought processes that give each object a bit of the artist’s signature. After the bisque firing, I apply a black stain to the surface, then wipe it away to make those earlier markings visible. I love this part of my work because it reveals what we do not want others to see—our internal conflicts. After the staining process, I apply colored underglaze slips, then loosely illustrate visual elements with a slip trailer to give a two-dimensional presentation. Finally, I begin painting the figures with a white base slip with layers of gray and black. To secure the details of the faces, I must fire multiple times. After the glaze firing, I apply the final details of the figures and add colored slip dots onto the beaded glaze. Then the ceramic piece goes through one final firing at a low temperature.
CM: How do you come up with the surfaces and imagery that are prevalent in your work?
AW: I have always been a collector of odd things. As a teenager, I would collage trash and random items all over my walls and ceiling because they held a significant memory. I do the same with my sketches and my ceramic forms, collecting and collaging varieties of photos and found images together with something historically antique. For me, this overlapping of images is much like introspection. As I paint figures on my work, I tie them to moments that were once embarrassing or uncomfortable in hopes of finding the humor of it all. Much of my color palette is inspired by cartoons, comic books, and vintage advertisements; these colors contrast with the monochromatic realism of the portraits. This translation results in bright, colorful objects that seem to vibrate and hum with potential energy.
To learn more, visit www.alwagnergallery.com.