Full of life

Cierra R. Vigue's ceramic creations conjure the outside world inside UNH exhibition

NH Weekend Editor
May 02. 2018 12:56PM

Cierra R. Vigue is a bachelor of arts candidate in ceramics at the University of New Hampshire in Durham. 
If you go...
WHATt: Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition and Senior Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts Exhibition

WHEN: Through May 18: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m.

WHERE: University of New Hampshire's Museum of Art, 30 Academic Way, Durham


INFO: unh.edu/moa

DURHAM — Cierra R. Vigue’s ceramic sculpture feels like it’s alive, swelling with the ocean tide or sprouting up from the forest floor.

The 21-year-old University of New Hampshire senior brings her intricate impressions of the outdoors inside as part of a showcase of emerging artists from the UNH Department of Art and Art History at the Museum of Art on campus through May 18.

In her artist’s statement, Vigue starts with a quote attributed to Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890): “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”

That kind of appreciation pervades Vigue’s work. There’s a sense that she’s brought home, and into this room, lingering impressions of a walk just taken through the woods and along the beach. There’s an organic sense of movement, with pieces molding themselves to the wall and furniture. They undulate over surfaces and drape down a table into a drawer and from a platform to the gallery floor. And through it all, there are hints of woodland growth and sea life.

NHWeekend caught up with Vigue, who grew up in Manchester, to get a closer look at her artistry.

How did you get interested in ceramics?

I took my first ceramics class my senior year of high school and quickly found myself interested in the physicality of clay as well as the intricate and delicate forms I could make — a quality that I never really seemed to be able to produce through my paintings and drawings.

When I came to UNH I took a ceramics class freshman year and changed my major from animal science to art. The closeness of the art department community drew me in, and I knew both that I had found a discipline that captivated me and a place I could call home.

What inspired this particular body of work?

The muse for my work is nature. I am inspired meandering through the woods or sitting by the ocean and feeling the sensations of the outdoors. I find little moments that stand out to me, whether it be the shape of a mushroom, the texture of a leaf or the form of a shell, and hang onto the memory of those moments when I go into my studio to create the unique surfaces for my work.

I purposely don’t bring the objects I find back to the studio because I am not trying to replicate them, rather I am pursuing my own interpretation and memory of them. For this body of work I wanted to create a installation where my pieces form a larger presence and make the viewers feel surrounded by them. Ultimately I would like the viewer to remember a time in which they enjoyed the essence of the outdoors.

I imagine you must a lot of patience. How painstaking is the process of creating these detailed seascapes? What is the trickiest part?

The work that I do is especially time consuming and, yes, at times frustrating. I think the trickiest part is not getting discouraged after being in the studio for 8-plus hours and only getting a small section of my work done. I will tell myself that I need to take a break and be away from the work, and in those cases I find myself going outside, where I can relax and breathe.

When I am making these pieces I just have to shut off my brain and let my hands do the thinking. It is so repetitive that after a short amount of time my hands can do the motion on their own.

Something that also helps is listening to music, I will put on Matt Corby, Leon Bridges, or any other really soulful artists that I enjoy listening to and allow myself to get lost in the work and in the process. This intricate work also helps me to focus for hours at a time, something I’ve struggled with my whole life.

Is the architecture tricky?

Other challenges are to engineer the structure and to accept the hazards of ceramics when something breaks after spending so much time on it. But with every mishap, glazing failure or explosion in the kiln, I learn from my mistakes.

I joyfully gain respect for the unpredictability of the medium even though I am controlling aspects of my sculptures and their surfaces at the same time. I love this contradiction between the obsessive and controlled and the unforeseeable in ceramics. This is especially true because I work with hundreds of tiny breakable surface elements. I hope to continue to grow my body of work in my travels through the natural world.

What’s next for you?

I will be graduating with my bachelor of fine arts (degree later this month), with a ceramics concentration. The work that is currently on display in the museum is my senior thesis, completed in my yearlong BFA Senior Seminar course.

I am also doing an independent study course focusing on creating a body of thrown, functional work, with the inspiration from Mark Hewitt and John Reeve.

I am working in the ceramics studio at UNH as the fellowship student, so most of my days are spent in the studio. This past year I (have been living) Newmarket, but I will be going home to Manchester until I figure out my next move.

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