CATCH AND RELEASE
Amy Santoferraro for Ceramics Monthly
As a former gallery assistant, I have lovingly placed a lot of art into a lot of space. This experience, paired with the guidance of talented gallery directors, has hugely influenced the way I think about my work inhabiting space. Everything within a gallery is subject to scrutiny, making the installation process tricky and different every time. The goal is to show the work, but there must also be sensitivity to the exhibition space, body of work to be exhibited, and fragility of the ceramic material. Because my general mode of operation is to play nicely with what I’m given, I choose to embrace the quirks, bonuses, or challenges presented each time I approach the installation of my work.
In my exhibition Please Stand By, at the Fosdick Nelson Gallery in Alfred, New York, thirty-nine BaskeTREES were individually placed on acrylic shelves in a niche near the front of the galley. Their visibility through the multi-paned windows embraced the Mid Century florist-shop appearance of the gallery’s entrance. The BaskeTREES were marketed and sold separately as floral arrangements, because they employed a wide variety of delicate and non-archival materials. By using plastic, ceramic, aluminum, foam, and a variety of other materials interchangeably I am quite literally taking our disregarded and discarded stuff and representing it as carefully organized and reconsidered stuff, encouraging the celebration and questioning of a possible shelf life attached to an item for sale in a gallery.
It is no coincidence that I lean towards stuff of little to no value. I beg these materials to acknowledge and engage their own artificiality and actively retain a bit of apathy in their new debut. I find a lot of stuff. I make a lot of stuff. Found and created objects get blurred through my making and thinking. Ceramics is almost too good at its ability to play both sides of the value/taste field due to its readily available variations in surface and its ability to dumb down elegance and taste in exchange for reproducibility and accessibility in the material world. Clay is my constant; in many cases it is the solution to formal problems in my work. My relationship and knowledge of the ceramic material and process allow me to create the “missing link” in the appropriate color or size and grants me the flexibility to make multiples at rapid and cheap rate.
The delicate nature of BaskeTREES also required protection from curious hands trying to scratch and squish their way toward answering the question: “Is that ceramic?” A pool-noodle fence was installed as a protective barrier, inviting gazers to look but not touch! The pool-noodle fence was my version of the velvet rope or museum sensor, but it also referenced garden edging. This was in keeping with my investigation throughout the exhibition of the “curated yard” as a vehicle for pursuing my interest in regular people as makers fueled by creativity and the desire to produce and present to the world! The yard is a calculated outward expression of the person who maintains it. The fabricated yard, seldom valued for its honesty and sincerity, digs up issues surrounding class, taste, beauty, and sentiment that lie at the root of my current investigation.
The idea of everyday people as makers helps me to consider how my family’s history of putting objects into spaces has influenced and informed my installation process. My father is a contractor and my mother works in retail. Most of my childhood was spent around tools and displays. I was constantly observing and assisting my parents with the installation of ceiling fans or hot new fashions! It’s no surprise that I love to install my work. In many instances it’s the first time I get to see the work all together. My favorite installation tools are all in gun form: glue, screw, heat, nail, and caulk. Without these tools and the assistance of my family and friends the work would never make it out of the studio!
Amy is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Please view more of her work at mysanto.com