Viewfinder by Liisa Nelson

Viewfinder by Liisa Nelson


Ceramics, glaze

This piece tied for Most Creative as voted by the audience at the opening.

About the Work from the artist:

 Viewfinder, like much of my work is designed to cause problems, to ignite questions that have no simple answers.

Self-contradiction is a major function of the piece. Its mask-like form represents both seeing and hiding. Vessel-like, its recessions are also protrusions. One action is inextricably linked with another. Opposites are posed and challenged: inside/outside, sharp/soft, opening/closing. Paradox is claimed. It is a self-defeating tool in that its 'lenses' are too wide for a person to actually look through with both eyes. It is too big for us, too 'broad' a scope. Physical interaction is evoked by a reference to something that we might use familiarly as a tool. Its sumptuous tactile surfaces further frustrate in their denial of interaction.

 We live in an ever more complex world, and the problems our nation faces in this moment seem to be unending and look different from every angle. Trump is known for self-contradiction. His policies benefit the privileged minority while his persona and rhetoric appeal to the masses of working-class people and underrepresented populations. How can this be? We see what we want to see and often its through tunnel vision. Through a lens (or a mask) there is inherently an us and a them.

'We' are always both. So are 'they'. We are confused by the smoke and mirrors of the media and by our own inner complexities in attempting to sort it out. Viewfinder asks for conversations about perspective. What kind of lens are you looking through or at or from or into? Are you looking in or out or both? A mask of gold glitter as a mirror on the the outside, a periphery of soft spines, and on the inside a thin and shedding veneer like a cake frosting. What is the gold glitter? What is the frosting? What makes up the walls of our tunnel vision and how can we strip away the layers to see what is truly authentic?

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Liisa Nelson is a 2018 MFA graduate of the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. She completed a post baccalaureate program at the University of Colorado Boulder (2015) and has a BFA in 3D Media from Pacific Lutheran University (2009). She has been teaching and working in ceramics for over a decade and has shown work in solo and group exhibitions across the United States. 

Nelson grew up in Montana in a place where people don’t often leave. Her father is a Lutheran minister and her mother is a nurse: body and soul. The studies of art, science, poetry and Daoism have been indispensable in her life and work. She is insatiably curious.


People say that what we're all seeking is a meaning for life. I don't think that's what we're really seeking. I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

                                                                                      — Joseph Campbell 

Throughout history objects of contemplation testify to the human urge to have our inner desires fulfilled outwardly. Illuminated manuscripts, ‘ritual’ objects of stone from antiquity, and alchemical aspirations of achieving immortality through the transmutation of base metals evidence the human need to seek completion and transcendence by physical means — to attain spiritual effects from material catalysts.

Transcendent experiences are often rooted in a heightened sense of physicality: ornate patterning on prayer rugs, the spinning of whirling dervishes, brightly painted decorated pages, the touch of gold-tipped brush to parchment. Materials resonate with bodies and can amplify our perception of the physical basis of our lives. They can evoke immediate desire and sustained longing.

Reaching towards the rapture of being alive is at the heart of my artistic practice. My motivating questions involve fundament, the nature of the phenomenological world, the human experience, spirituality, transcendence, cultural and religious practices, and scientific study. I draw on sources that document the ways in which humans seek, and the language of poets. 

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