- Associated Press - Saturday, May 27, 2017

DOYLESTOWN, Pa. (AP) - Among many evocative ceramics by Lisa Naples, the two-faced rabbit with the baby-doll body is at once startling and cryptic, a key to artistic and personal processes.

These have served Naples well over the decades since she fell in love with ceramics “like people talk about falling in love with people,” she recalled recently in her Doylestown Township studio. At the time, she was majoring in English at Rutgers University, but would become fluent in other, silent languages.

“I love that I have access to slab building, coil pinching or throwing,” she said of the potter’s technique. “It’s like the wheel is one language, and slab building is another language, and whichever is going to serve the idea better, I use.”

Naples also incorporates non-ceramic or found objects into her work. This lends a particular surrealism to “My Head’s Under Water But I’m Breathing Fine,” where the rabbit’s head tops a baby-like body; and in “First, Eat the Frog,” in which a steel deep-frying tool becomes the ribs of another rabbit.

As in other fine-art pieces, Naples uses animal imagery to draw the viewer closer to insightful terrain.

When she used human figures in her work, she found that “people would edge away, didn’t want to get near it. It’s too close, it’s like it’s too intimate. So, if I work with animal figures and tell the same human stories only through an animal, people come right up to it, ‘cause they don’t recognize it as them. They approach it, then they enjoy the story, they can get past that layer of resistance.”

“My Head’s Under Water” records and interprets a specific experience.

“This was a particularly hard winter, and I felt that terror, often, as a companion arising. But there was also this part that could report about the one who was terrified, so I noticed that I had both, which was very comforting, even though I couldn’t understand why this one had to be so present,” she said.

“These are human stories that I’m telling, or that are being told with my assistance. They’re stories of my experience of living. We have way more in common than we think, we think we’re so separate.”

Naples grew up in a large family in Falls, encouraged in her career choice by her parents, Jerry and Marie. “Your guiding force was, ‘Do you enjoy it?’ When I wanted to go into the arts, there was no resistance at all,” she recalled.

The sculptor makes utilitarian and fine-arts pieces, exhibits widely and teaches around the country. At the moment, she is taking a year off from travel and works with students in a recently established classroom upstairs in the barn that houses her studio.

Sticking close to home provides her with an interval to regroup. “I need stillness to be able to get in touch with that force of creativity. It’s very tangible, in my experience. You get still enough, the things arise.”

Naples communicates this with characteristic animal symbolism. A bird perches on a goat’s shoulder, whispering into its ear. “Listening to Stillness” is simultaneously amusing and serious, like many of Naples‘ animal-themed sculptures.

She endows her birds, rabbits, squirrels and goats with expressive faces and postures, such as “Close Shave,” a whimsical bunny flashing a lopsided smile while poking his head out of the bristles of a brush as if hiding in the grass. In “Protection,” a mother bird shields her nestlings with one wing and flares the other at approaching danger.

Naples paints and etches her works, sometimes representationally, as in the feathers incised on the birds (and at least one hare). She finishes stoneware pieces with dry-brush slip (thick liquid clay), and glazes them with formulas containing ingredients such as black iron oxide.

“The slip skips over, so you’re seeing the raw clay revealed,” she said, demonstrating on a slab-built tray with handles. Then she completely covers the softly colored tray with the black liquid containing iron, then wipes it down.

“It puts it (glaze) where you want it,” she said.

The tray is fired for 24 hours, with transformative results. “It fills in all the recessed areas, it pulls that iron down, gives that amber feathering effect, just giving it some depth … the whole background information,” the sculptor said.

“This would be much less interesting if it was one solid tone. It feels more organic.”

Naples views the technical demands of her medium optimistically. “Ceramics has limits, just like human beings. It doesn’t waver in its limits, so it’s a very good teacher. You have to adapt to it, it doesn’t have to adapt to you.”





Information from: The Intelligencer, https://www.theintell.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide