2021 Emerging Artist: Isys Hennigar

Isys Hennigar, Columbus, North Carolina

Ceramics Monthly: How do you come up with the forms and surfaces that are prevalent in your work?

Isys Hennigar: My pieces usually begin with a sketch and a general idea of surface information. Sometimes the final form looks just like the original sketch, but more often, improvisation blurs the resemblance. My work considers the complex ways in which humans engage with, use, and interpret the natural world. I draw from early natural history, regional folklore, animal symbology, and other forms of narrative that lend themselves to locating patterns in stories we tell involving plants and animals. I am particularly interested in the strange interactions or chance relationships often present in these narratives and in creating objects that tell these stories in tangled constellations. The forms on which I represent these narrative webs reference landscapes, tools, bodies, and vessels. My work is continuously informed by the agrarian and post-agrarian landscapes of southern Appalachia, where I live. I am excited by the tools and vessels that we use to mediate our relationships with other species and the dense and subtle ways in which human activity is inscribed on the landscape. Through form and surface, I try to interweave myth and mundanity, and invoke a sense of delicately balanced systems.

1 River Voice, 10 in. (25 cm) in width, stoneware, glaze, fired to cone 6 in oxidation, china paint, ceramic decals, 2020.

CM: What role do makers play within our current culture, and how do you think you contribute to it?

IH: The reasons for making are too vast to define inclusively, but I think that among the objectives of most makers is to initiate or facilitate connection. Sometimes that connection is between people: knowing the person who made my coffee mug, for example, and bringing humanity to daily routines through holding and using an object that someone else’s hands shaped. Sometimes the connection is between ideas. Making art is one of the many ways we attempt to make sense of the world and articulate its complexity. It is a method by which we prompt questions, imagine different ways of seeing and living, and teach ways of reconciling difference or recognizing similarity.

2 Le Chat, 11 in. (28 cm) in height, stoneware, glaze, fired to cone 6 in oxidation, china paint, bronze, 2020.

I hope that my work’s contribution to the world of made things is an invitation to dwell momentarily in the complexity of interactions between living things. Part of the attraction that making art holds for me is its potential for ambiguity and layered meaning. I believe that making unexpected, enigmatic, or speculative objects functions in some small way to keep the world large and mysterious, in all of its wonder and absurdity.

To learn more, visit https://isyshennigar.com.

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