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The Making of ‘Engulf’

By Hunter Stamps

Editor’s Note: This post continues our series featuring KMAC Triennial artists. The KMAC Triennial, on view through December 1, 2019, brings together twenty artists who spent formative years in Kentucky.  Comprised of artworks that preserve certain traditions like weaving, crocheting, drawing, painting, and ceramics, the Triennial also includes the newer territories of conceptual photography, video, sound, installation and performance.

Acceptance into the inaugural KMAC Triennial is such an honor and has provided great motivation to create new work and push my artistic boundaries. KMAC curator Joey Yates initially came for a studio visit in early May and we had a wonderful discussion about the various series of work that I presented. Joey is very insightful and has a great way of engaging with artists to perceive where they are coming from and forecast what directions may lie ahead. He challenged me to make something new and unique for the KMAC exhibit space. When visiting KMAC in early June, the white 6-inch support poles in the middle of the spaces really grabbed my attention. I began imagining a large site-specific sculpture with opposing aesthetic elements to the pole. Organic, round, soft folding irregular bodily forms wrapping, climbing and consuming this architectural element of structure, regularity and support.

Over the last two months, I designed and created an 8-foot tall ceramic sculpture, composed of 8 modular sections assembled around an armature constructed out of a 10-foot PVC pole erected in my studio (see studio image). The entire piece is made out of forms thrown on a potter’s wheel, beginning with dozens of 10lb cylinders stacked on top of one another to create an internal armature.  Smaller wheel thrown forms were wrapped around the internal structure to convey the elasticity and muscularity of a human or animal body. Each of the four levels is composed of two sections, each weighing 90-100 pounds, making for a total of 800 pounds of clay and over 140 thrown parts. This being my largest and most ambitious piece to date, I was challenged to engineer new ways to build with clay and also structurally adhere fired ceramic components to architectural elements. 

‘Engulf’ is just one of several other pieces that I will have on display in the Triennial, bodily works of an abject nature will be displayed on a medical transport table, and an assortment of ceramic and cast glass sculptures installed on the wall. Currently, I am putting the final touches on a newly fabricated work composed of an abstracted ceramic figure encased in a custom fabricated metal and glass container. The piece is titled ‘Exhume’ and is inspired by the ceramics and ancient burial practices of the Mimbres culture.  Not only is the prospect of installing my work exciting, but also seeing all the work of the other amazing artists that I am proud to be exhibiting alongside in the KMAC Triennial. 

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