Production stills from ART21 Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 7. © ART21, Inc. 2014.
Arlene Shechet was born in 1951 in New York City. Fascinated by the way things are made, Shechet likens her studio to both farm and factory. Employing an experimental approach to ceramic sculpture, she tests the limits of gravity, color, and texture by pushing against the boundary of classical techniques, sometimes fusing her kiln-fired creations with complex plinths formed of wood, steel, and concrete. By incorporating casts of firebricks and porcelain slip molds into her sculptures (revealing the tools of industry), she reflects on and investigates the tradition of decorative arts. Variously sensual, humorous, and elegant, her clay-based vessels evoke the tension between control and chaos, beauty and ugliness, perfection and imperfection. Considering herself an installation artist who happens to make objects, Shechet focuses intently on ensuring that the display, sight lines, and relationships of the objects in her exhibitions change with every view while maintaining formal equilibrium.
In the following preview from the ART21 Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 7 episode Secrets, Shechet reflects on her interests in clay as a material. Shown at work in her Woodstock, NY studio in early 2014, the artist describes a freedom in working with clay because of the material’s “lack of beauty in its raw state.” “Because it has no character, I can make anything,” says the artist. “It’s just there to be invented.”