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At Montpelier, ceramic works explore sense of touch

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Photo by Wanda Jackson. Kayleigh Porter's artwork "Bodyscape1" is porcelain with found textures.

Photo by Wanda Jackson. Kayleigh Porter's artwork "Bodyscape1" is porcelain with found textures.

Published on: Wednesday, October 03, 2012

By Wanda Jackson

Ceramic artist Kayleigh Porter wants you to break one of the cardinal rules of art galleries: Do not touch anything.

At least that is the premise behind her latest works.

In “Palpable,” at the Montpelier Arts Center through Oct. 26, Porter features 18 wall- and pedestal-displayed ceramic forms. She uses porcelain with rubber, porcelain with glaze, ceramics with found textures, and porcelain with mixed-media or plexiglass.

“I want people to enjoy interacting with my work and leave with something to talk about,” said Porter, “some kind of emotional response: temptation, relish, disgust, comfort, nervousness or curiosity.

“Whether it’s some silly story about secretly touching one of the textures and a small gel ball pops out and rolls across the floor,” then capturing it in order to return it to the work.

“Or, some feeling in their stomach from being haunted by some tactile experience they missed out on,” Porter said.

In “Palpable,” Porter exhibits two bodies of work — “The Pinch Series” and “My Bodyscape Series.”

The “Pinch Series,” Porter said, “is a completely intuitive process. It is a healing process of simply taking a small handful of clay and spending a few hours carefully shaping it with my hands. There are no rules and no expectations, so I am able to freely explore spacial relationships I am interested in: a cave space, inside/outside, a small protrusion, an orifice.

“As these small pieces began to accumulate, I began using them as glaze tests to explore surface and form relationships. I am able to experiment freely on these forms without becoming too attached to the result. This freedom in experimentation allowed me to create the catalog of surface and form that I now reference,” Porter said.

Porter’s “Bodyscape Series” tends to follow sketched guidelines, but her process is still relatively intuitive. The series incorporates ceramic or porcelain box-shaped forms.

“I know the composition, the proportions I want to apply, and how many boxes will have textures verses how many will be blank,” Porter said. “As I dig my hands into the clay, the undulating surface of the work practically builds itself as I imagine different areas of the human body.”

All the while, she is collecting different textures and thinking of glaze formulations that remind her of certain feelings or emotions.

“It’s these emotion-triggering textures that I consider palpable,” Porter said.

To produce her tactile works, Porter uses “post-ceramic, synthetic material” she describes as “a man-made material applied to the art piece after the ceramic firing process has been completed.”

“Although great things can be achieved through the traditional ceramic process of glaze, I believe that additional modern materials can extend themselves to a more diverse tactile experience. By supplying the public with a plethora of textures, it becomes easier to tempt them into breaking the traditional ‘no touching’ laws of the gallery,” Porter said. “My work creates that pit in the viewer’s stomach, where they face themselves, the art, the gallery monitor and temptation.”

Porter is a recent graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) ceramics program. She teaches ceramics throughout the Maryland area including Baltimore Clayworks and the Chesapeake Art Center in Severna Park. Her work has been exhibited at the San Angelo Museum of Art in Texas and most recently at Denmark’s Grimmerhus: International Museum of Ceramic Art. Also in Denmark, Porter won an artist residency at the Guldagergaard: International Ceramic Research Center.

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