Ceramics Monthly: The narratives you create on the surface of your pieces walk the line between alluring and unnerving. Do you construct the narratives to enhance this tension? If so how?
Kurt Weiser: I can’t say that there’s a lot of conscious planning that goes into it really. I think tension is the right word though; it’s the tension between things that makes them stand out—whether they are strange, or threatening, or just boring. When I started china painting, all the historical examples I could find were painted with idyllic scenes of idealized people in a garden feeding baby lambs or some other insipid scene meant to present a perfect and peaceful world. I suppose ceramics didn’t feel the need to take on anything unnerving or, at the time, ceramics was unnerving enough. But I was amazed at the technique and mastery of the painting—an amazing stage set but a very dull play. My intention was to steal the stage and make up my own story with all the tension, contradiction, and fatal allure of the world, or my world anyway. I just want to say something about the strangeness of being human, our relationships with each other, with nature, and how odd and unexpected it all is—and to do it on a pot.
CM: How much of the story do you work out ahead of time, and how do you decide which elements of it to share and which to omit?
KW: I don’t really work it out ahead of time, but I do have things that seem to keep my attention. I have always have been fascinated with portraits, maybe because they are always about us and what we are and where we are. Hands fascinate me, maybe because they’re what we use to change things— clay or the world, for that matter. I just start out painting something that interests me but am never sure exactly where it is going. It’s just a conversation of images, I put things down and erase them until it seems like something I’ve experienced or illustrates my own confusion.
What I don’t want is a sermon—so the narratives don’t have a conclusion. They are about my own experiences but I have learned over time that most of our experiences are so much the same.