Mike Stumbras
I feel an internal imperative to create beautiful functional objects. This feeling stems from a greater desire to contextualize and celebrate the world in which I am a participant. In form and surface, I try to capture the things I see and experience in order to record their beauty and frailty and meaning. In this way, I create objects that satisfy my sense of how the world should be without the many complicating interferences of actual life. As a teacher, I desire to see my students succeed in obtaining the tools to express themselves. As an artist, I try to create a delicate place where users can leave themselves to momentarily dwell in the thoughts and experiences of others.
I draw comfort from the expressive potential of porcelaneous and chocolatey iron-enriched clays that I throw with on the potters wheel. I alter my forms softly after throwing to create an undulating canvas that attempts to compliment the form as thrown and emulates natural processes: I think about a river of hot coffee flowing from an altered mug as an ancient generative stream wandering through the countryside. I use a historical “mishima” slip inlay to create sharp imagery that is draped in either a thin glaze or patina that I formulate myself.
This body of work explores the beauty and horror of nature through metaphoric symbolism and the language of consumption. Nature is often upheld by society as an ideal of holistic beauty. I use natural imagery to present an alternate interpretation of nature as not just saturated with formal beauty, but also with a self-contained order of meaningless suffering and predation. In a time when the word “unnatural” is associated with “wrong” without rational consideration and “natural” is associated with benign, I seek to paint a picture of the natural order as undeserving of these (or any) moral connotations.
Floral imagery speaks to the temporality of life, deception, disorder, and seduction; while handmade vessels (especially those designed to hold coffee or alcohol) speak to the privilege of indulgence. I hope, however, that this body of work is not pessimistic, but celebratory of a worldview characterized by critical thought and acceptance of difficult truth.