Jennifer Chetelat: Artist Statement
As a potter and ceramist I am constantly interacting with a medium that undergoes a drastic change. Clay has the ability to go from something malleable and temporary to something solid and permanent with the properties to exist in its form for thousands of years. However, left on its own, clay mostly does not change, it is subject to the elements and can be a very temporary substance. But when it is placed in the hands of a skilled creator it has the potential to become something beautiful, and possibly functional, and everlasting.
For me, my relationship with Jesus Christ has been the catalyst for growth as a person. When I was young in age and young in my faith, I saw the way of life that is laid out in the Bible as just a bunch of rules. A measurement for my behavior. And a yardstick by which I usually fell short. However, as in any relationship, the more I got to know the person on the other end the more I realized that there was so much freedom in a life of faith. The change in me is gradual, but when I step back and look at the areas of my life where I have really surrendered my own pursuits, those are the areas where I have the most peace and joy.
From / To
As in the piece From/To, I see my life in layers. One layer reacts to the one before it and informs the next one. And of course, there are unexpected events or occurrences that pop up and change the trajectory of the whole journey. This piece is done as a diptych because I do see a definite line in my life of before and after my personal decision of faith. When I look back on my own life, I see seasons of health and happiness as well as seasons of sickness and sorrow. For me the transformation from what I was to what I am becoming is a much slower, longer process.
The main inhibitor along the way is usually myself. For me, my faith frees me from these limitations. It frees me from the limitations that I put on myself, or that others put on me. It also frees me from stagnancy. God wants me to be in relationship with Him and I put things in the way of that intimacy. The things that I put between myself and God are ideas that I have explored in some of my pieces. “Performance”, “Expectations”, and “Hope and Doubt” are all constructs of my efforts to be self-sufficient, and independent from my Creator. When I put myself in the skilled hands of my Creator (and allow the time and trials that life brings to transform me), like my clay, I can become something beautiful, functional, and everlasting.
The process of making wet clay in to a permanent state of being is a multi phased one. After the clay has dried completely, it undergoes a series of firings in a kiln that are thousands of degrees. I used to be afraid of the “firings” of life, but I’m getting less so with age. Writer and theologian Frederick Buechner said, “ This is life. Beautiful and terrible things will happen, don’t be afraid.” I have seen enough of the beauty on the other side of the terrible to begin to trust my Creator.
Edit: From / To
During the Italian Renaissance, the theme of competition became popular, especially among artists, in a variety of ways. Artists competed between one another (Titian and Veronese are two examples of artistic rivals) for excellence in technique and for commissions. Amongst painters, there was the competition of color versus line. More broadly, and perhaps the most longlasting debate, was the great paragone. Artists, critics, and patrons debated about the superiority of the two major mediums: painting and sculpture. They argued, as many still do today, back and forth; which medium was most effective in portraying subject matter artistically.
This month’s artist, Jennifer Chetelat, demonstrates the unique and powerful ways three-dimensional art can portray subject matter. One of the most powerful elements of sculpture and ceramics is the way the work interjects itself into the frame and into physical space from the wall, the art interacts with each viewer in a more tangible and corporal way.
The medium invokes a reaction. And the medium itself is also intrinsically different from its two-dimensional counterparts, specifically in how it is handled and formed by the artist. Whereas painting and drawing are acts of addition, sculpture and ceramics are acts of subtraction. Indeed, aside from the more physical painters (ie. Jackson Pollock and Yves Klein), the process of sculpting with clay is more touch-based in terms of the artist’s sensory experiences.
Hope and Doubt
These works here showcase the nature of three-dimensional art. Coming off the wall and into the gallery space, the pieces interact through their physicality. The stories they tell are of transformation, renewal, and progression. The works demonstrate a key part of life’s experiences: the processes by which we seek growth, or moving from something to something else.
As you walk through the gallery, notice how each piece comes into your space, and the shared space of the gallery. When you think about transformative things in your life, are they mostly gradual or more instantaneous processes? Do you see your life experiences as moving from one kind of path to another? What kind of things have been catalysts in your own movements toward progress?