A neighbor to Lawndale Art Center, the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft is home not only to exhibition galleries and a gift shop, but a collection of artists as well. Its artist-in-residence program gives studio space, exhibition opportunities, and a small, monthly stipend to select craftspeople. Since the residency does require them to create works on site, the windowed work spaces are a bit like artist-petting zoos. One such artist-in-residence (and residing there when I was visiting) is Kelley Eggert.
She began her 12-month residency in September, bringing along a collection of pieces conceived for her thesis show at the School of Art and Art History at the University of Florida, Gainesville. All these works are grounded in real anatomy, both botanical and zoological. Not content to just assemble visually complementary parts from animals and plants, the elements involved have behavioral or biological traits that tie them together. With names like "The Opportunist," "The Temptress," and "The Philanthropist," the titles hint at the biological mechanisms explored. The pieces look a bit like the love-children of H. R. Giger (the guy that did "Alien") and Georgia O'Keeffe (the woman that did Stieglitz).
Eggert is taking a different track from local artist Elaine Bradford, who also takes imagined creatures as a starting point. In Bradford's 2009 Houston Art League show "Museum of UnNatural History," she not only crafted animals (taxidermy + knitting), she made dioramas, contextual text panels, etc. Eggert does not see imagined environments accompanying her animals, instead looking to keep them singular, sculptural objects of art: "I don't want them to be specimen, I don't want them to be fossil, I want them to be alive." It will be a tough balance, to make the art live in a most sterile and controlled of environments, the gallery.
When asked about using ceramics as her primary medium, she replies, "I'm not a clay purist. I just really love the way clay works. When you can get the glaze right, there's something about that surface that's so fantastic." While clay is used to create much of the creatures' bodies, flocking (a velvet-like texture), silicone rubber, quills, dyed monofilament, and plastic resin are materials used to add detail and features. These sculptures are currently in her HCCC studio space and will be a springboard for future works created at the center.
The artists in residence will be participating in the center's "AIR Fair & Asher Holiday Soiree" on Thursday, November 19. Studios will be open, the artists will be there, talking about their works and taking questions.