“There is no life that does not contribute to history.” Dorothy West
We live in challenging times where one can respond to history-in-the-making with collective political action or more personally. My reactions to current events are more personal, particularly when I see regressions in political freedoms and acceptance of social repression and oppression. Our times can contribute to individual hopelessness, particularly if one is disabled, has experienced sexual abuse and violence, or witnessed gun violence. Instead of retreating, I give voice to uncivilized behavior through my art.
My most recent body of work is the result of a years of research into historic European royal porcelain — where race and class were expressed materially and ubiquitously. In trying to understand those times, I create delicate, translucent, extravagant forms, gilded with gold luster that practically glow. In juxtaposition to the fine porcelain, I use rich, dark earthenware clays for accents, often as trays, cups, and other serving pieces. Rather than creating disparity, the dark clay bodies elevate the refinement of the porcelain forms, in a direct commentary about how those with dark skin and deemed as “other” by politics and culture are the bedrock of society. Through delicate, fine mishima inlaid into the clay, metallic lusters, and china paints, I add another layer of pattern and text, which is used to more directly remark upon topics such as feminism, gender stereotypes, and domestic violence. In these ways and more, I tell stories, past and present — with my voice and the voices of the silenced. As a creator and maker, I use my own personal narrative as a starting point for creation, driving the domestic nature of the objects and imagery, with the hope that my sensibility will resonate with others, perhaps some who are unable to tell their stories. Viewers engage with one part of a piece, whether it be form, texture, imagery, perhaps, even beauty, and are drawn into the deeper conversation. Every dialogue begins somewhere, in a touch, a tea, or titillation. Every change has a catalyst — maybe even a cup of mine.
Amanda Barr hails from the Midwest, having lived most of her life in Missouri and Iowa with a brief stint in Kansas for grad school (which was in Spanish, it’s a long story). She operated her own studio practice from 2009 until 2015, when she headed to University of Colorado Boulder to make ceramics official with a post-baccalaureate before coming to Seattle for a long term residency at Pottery Northwest. She has taught many subjects at many levels, from kindergarten to adults and including ceramics, Spanish, theatre, and Irish dance. Her work can be recognized by her signature surfaces and she has a keen interest in all things printmaking.