Global Studio / Thesis

Rowan Smith-Spa…


Stoneware piece utilizing traditional Japanese Raku firing

Rowan Smith-Spanier

Provisional Title: The Loss of the Human-Made

Thesis Statement:

The ancient process of pottery is rendered precious and unique in a technology based global culture which moves further away from the hand-made and the tactile experience of physically creating an object, whether functional or purely aesthetic.

Clay or earth is such in essence a pure and universal medium, devoid limitations of sustainability or accessibility due to class or physical location.  Pottery has been used by every civilization throughout history and epitomizes the uniquely human ability to create a functional object.  Each of these geographically disparate cultures created an equally refined solution to the process of ceramics from glazing to firing and these techniques have been passed down through generations and maintained only through individually masterful execution.  The simplistic beauty of a  bowl is lost because we are inundated with its banality and in contemporary cultures the use of earth as the material  is replaced by unnatural often toxic alternatives.  The vessel both in its ubiquitous functionality throughout different cultures and profound metaphor of the form itself epitomizes for me the wonder of human development and the precious nature of these varied and refined techniques that are being replaced by mechanized production.

Since moving to the city a year ago I have struggled with grounding my studio art practice in something that seemed real and meaningful to me amidst increasingly heavy load of conceptual bull-shit.   In the fine art department at Parsons, the major focus is on performance, sound and other very intangible technology based work, and when showing my pots I feel like I am  presenting some relic or archaic object, however for me, this contemporary move – both in art and the world – towards a technology-centric cyber world, makes these ancient historical practices and modes of creation all the more precious and urgent.  The meditative nature of throwing on the wheel, the endless levels of skill and craft to be mastered  and the limitless creative possibilities it allows are all things that excite me in my studio practice.  They allows me to explore art and form on a more visceral level and reminds me that some of the most powerful and beautiful things transcend the limits of verbal or even cognitive articulation.

Concepts:

Process based work which forces us to confront the means of production behind a functional or everyday object and narrows the gulf between consumer and producer. -Timo Rissenen Lecture

Design is a futureing act: transforming/re-imagining what is. -Joel Towers Lecture

I try to work from a place which utilizes existing techniques and processes but manipulates and utilizes them in a new way.

Resillience – the ability to change and adapt without collapse. – Joel Towers Lecture

Working as a metaphor for our larger eco-system, Clay by nature is structurally fluid and easily manipulated but is also extremely fragile and destructible.

Skepticism/Wonder – Ed Keller Lecture

When we attempt dissect and analyze every meaning-full experience -artistic or otherwise – on a scientific or cognitive level we can loose the mystery that makes it so powerful.

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3 thoughts on “Rowan Smith-Spa…

  1. your thesis is somewhat relates to my thesis which is fast fashion and lost of craftsmanship. it is interesting to see the similar idea in different major and it actually help me think more about the topic.

  2. This thesis can be applied to many fields across our ever-changing world. In one of our previous class discussions, we had talked a bit about how machines are replacing jobs done by man, and a remaining job done by man would be to maintain those machines. I believe that in a consumers eye, as long as the price is right, nothing else really matters. Their reasoning is most likely that quality costs more than the quantity of machine made products, therefore quality gets replaced by quantity.

  3. Rowan,

    How poetic! I am pleased to see that after our discussion last week you have synthesized an appreciation for hand rendered pieces and global connectivity. As tangible painting and sculptural objects have gone the way of the dodo in recent years, It is important to recognize your placement on this planet as well, not just that of your medium. What will YOU bring to the table? I’m eager to hear.

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