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With her astounding dedication to ecological and natural subjects Crystal Morey is taking ceramic sculpture to an Eco-conscious level rarely seen. Using her intuitive talents to mirror our world within her world of metaphor and folklore, Crystal is making statements much needed within society with her wonderful pieces. She spoke to us more about her incredible inspirations and motivations for Issue 019 of beautiful.bizarre.
What was your childhood like and how do you think it influenced you today as an artist?
I grew up in foothills of Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California, where the growing and changing natural beauty made a strong and lasting impression. The landscape instilled an interest in trees, plants, lakes, rivers, streams, a love for wild creatures, and a curiosity to explore, enjoy and understand the environment around me.
I now live in Oakland California, a city with an industrial urban landscape. For me, Oakland is the perfect place to create my work. The art community is strong and there is so much support in galleries, project spaces, studios and between artists.
In my life, and in my work, I have grown to love and pull inspiration from both industrial and rural landscapes. I find interest in how humans and animals find habitats and adapt within all spaces, myself included.
Your educational background is very impressive. There are many people, however, that think art education is not a necessary part of the educational system. Why was art school important to you? What were the most memorable aspects that you pulled from your programs?
I have been lucky enough to attend school in two stages of my life, each experience reshaping my perspectives, growing my abilities, and presenting new opportunities for growth.
In my first art school experience I attended the California College of the Arts, in Oakland. I was young, wildly motivated to sculpt, paint and draw, and completely attracted to the magic of creating. I had come from a small town and had lived a relatively sheltered life. My exposure to art, history, and people of all walks of life, changed my understanding of the world and increased my knowledge and skills in ways I could have never expected. I also found my community in mentors, artistic contemporaries and in friends I still value to this day.
My graduate school experience was very different. I was more settled in my life, with an active studio practice, and a great arts community. But I wanted to expand my work and push it to the next level so I returned to school for an MFA at San Jose State University. At the time, I had no idea I was about to completely dismantle and rebuild my way of thinking, seeing, and making art. Conceptually, I dove deep into art history, ideas of natural evolution, contemporary environmental issues and developed my ideas about humans and our relationship to the world around us. I also worked really hard to break old habits of stylization, to really see what I was sculpting and why. One of the best discoveries I made in my graduate work was finding and switching to porcelain, which I continue to use. Moving into porcelain was a new challenge, pushing me yet again, developing my hand skills, learning new building techniques and making me more deliberate and decisive when sculpting.
I realize schooling is not for everyone and there are many ways to gain knowledge and become a better maker and thinker. For me I needed the time, the community, and the resources to help me find my way. I am so happy to have had the amazing opportunity of education.
Your work utilizes a finely honed skill to replicate both the human form as well as aspects of the natural world, often hybridizing the two. What message are you looking to impart through this blend of humanity and nature?
My sculptures exist in a narrative that is rooted both in current environmental issues and a myth of my own creation. I see this narrative as a warning of what may come if our actions do not change. I also see my creations as an anecdote that we are all connected, one large woven cycle, and bound together by our need for a healthy planet.
This narrative explores an imaginary landscape expanding on a conversation of climate change, the manipulation of evolutionary processes, and where our actions may lead. In this land, a shift has occurred and we find the earth in a state of imbalance. Humans and animals have become one, intricately and physically bound together, dependent on each other with a new ability to restore natural life. This world reminds us of our connection to the plants and animals around us, that we are all part of one interwoven ecosystem, supporting and growing together.
I would love to know more about your process. Where do you find inspiration and how do you turn ideas into finished product? Why did you choose porcelain as your main material?
My sculptures are inspired by contemporary environmental issues, art history, and our human connections and impacts on the animals and land around us.
Art history is one of my greatest resources. I like to think of historical works as a visual language that is passing through time from one maker to the next, showing us technique, knowledge and what is culturally important at the time. I love to look at Paleolithic cave paintings, Egyptian deities, Greek and Roman antiquities, renaissance, baroque and rococo paintings.
Environmentally I am interested in extinct and endangered species, as well as what we consider to be “fringe” or “indicator” species. These creatures are often the first casualties of environmental change, and are found at both ends of the food chain. These interests have led me to include creatures such as small birds, falcons, hawks, bears, and wild cats in my creations.
I find that porcelain as a material helps to convey my ideas, reminding us of the precarious balance we find ourselves in with environmental issues.
I see porcelain as having qualities of delicacy and impermanence, and the ability to capture and record fine detail. In my own subject matter I want to use this fragile material to talk about the most vulnerable creatures and botanicals in our ecosystem, and how we as humans relate with them and the natural world around us. I hope to create a congruous narrative of strength and fragility, a balance that can easily be disrupted, leading to unknowable outcomes.
How do you feel about the disconnection between modern day society and nature, and what do you think is the best way to solve the current ecological trajectory of our world?
Our human relationship with nature is very complicated, and one I am continually trying to explore, understand. In my work I think about drastic environmental changes happening all around us and how they affect our physical and emotional selves.
As humans, we have a modern history of trying to control and separate ourselves from the natural world. Our rapid exploitation of the earth is only deepening the divide between how we see ourselves as humans and the way we relate to the land and animals around us. In my work, I want to show a different outcome, where all living creatures are interconnected and reliant on each other. To show that we are one intricate web of relations, dependent on each to save our environment for the long-term sustainability of our world.
Many of your artworks seem to speak to the reality of being female. Some of your works show fragility, some sensuality, and some are permeated with a powerful earth goddess quality. Can you talk a little bit about these pieces and your philosophy behind them?
I love the female form and have always believed it contains strong symbolism and power. I am also interested in the female archetypes we find in art history such at Mary, Lilith, Venus, and Artemis to name a few. Although I am informed by the history of these archetypes, and my figures are always represented in the female form, I don’t necessarily see them as being gendered. I see them as representing humankind as a whole, with the power to convey my narrative that all living creatures are connected and dependent on each other.
My recent work continues an exploration into the complex relationships we all share with the natural world around us. Hand sculpted in delicate porcelain, these beings depict anthropomorphic entanglements of humans, endangered and impacted species, plant life, rocks and small ocean creatures. These creatures remind us of our connection to the changing landscape of today, and that we are all part of one interwoven ecosystem, supporting and growing together for the long-term health of our world.
Who are your inspirations? What artists, books or music do you turn to when you need extra motivation or stimulation?
I love art history and try to learn as much as I can, visiting as many museums as possible. I love ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek and Roman artifacts and Renaissance and Baroque artists, Titian, Bernini, Da Vinci, and Michelangelo.
I also love to look at contemporary artists and the work of: John Currin, Lisa Yuskavage, Tiffany Bozic, Lisa Ericson, Scott Listfield, Chris Antemann, Claire Partington. Beth Cavner, Patricia Piccinini, Kiki Smith and Kara Walker to name a few.
I also try to get outside and walk as much as possible, looking to quiet my thoughts and find inspiration in nature.
What is it like traversing the vast landscape that is the art world and what advice do you have for others who are trying to find their voice in such a quick moving industry?
For me, finding my community as an artist has been so important. First in school, then in the Oakland art scene, the gallery world, and now all over through social media. Finding kindred makers and thinkers to talk about ideas, share experiences, and create shows has really given me a sense of belonging and keeps me motivated.
I also really push my work ethic, my follow through, and try to stay persistent, since these skills are just as important as making work that is thoughtful and beautifully executed. I also try to stay positive, speak my truth, and believing that there is always an opportunity out there and an audience that will be intrigued.
What does the future hold for you? Are there any projects you are excited about? Any people you dream about collaborating with?
I am so happy for all the support and interest my work has received over the past few years. I am so grateful for the generosity in my arts community, the galleries I work with, publications that have written about my work, and to all the amazing collectors that have taken interest and added a piece to their collection. With more opportunities, I am able to put more hours into the studio, allowing me to dive deeper into concepts, pushing my sculptures on a visual and technical level, and creating sculptures that are more detailed, dynamic, emotional, and complex. My technical skills are growing all the time, which is really exciting and I can’t wait to see what life will bring!
2018 is filled with many exciting opportunities, exhibitions, art fairs, and projects. Much of my time will be spent working on two groupings of work, one for Visions West Contemporary in Denver and one for my second solo exhibition at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco. I will also have work with many great galleries including: Antler Gallery in Portland, Abmeyer + Wood in Seattle, Red Truck Gallery in New Orleans, Ferrin Contemporary in Massachusetts, and Bein Art in Melbourne, Australia. This June I will spend my time at The LH Project, an artist residency in eastern Oregon. This will give me uninterrupted studio time, contemplation that comes from spending time in wilderness, and hopefully some great connections and conversations with other artists. Life is looking bright and I can’t wait to see what comes out of the studio.