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Liisa Nelson

Contemporary Artist | Designer | Curator | Educator

Bio

Liisa Nelson was born and raised in Montana. The wildness of nature and stillness of mountains are in her blood.

 

In 2018 she graduated with an MFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. She holds a BFA from Pacific Lutheran University and a post-baccalaureate from the University of Colorado, Boulder. 

 

She is a current Artist in Residence and Windgate Fellow at the Clay Studio Philadelphia (2022-24). Past residencies include the Red Lodge Clay Center (2021), the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute, Jingdezhen, China (2019), and  and the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art (2014). She was a Visiting Artist at The Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China (2019). 

 

Her academic teaching record includes courses taught at Alfred University (2018), and at the Maryland Institute College of Art (2022-present).

 

In 2020 Nelson founded Theorii Contemporary Art Space, an experimental gallery that hosted several solo and group exhibitions of artists throughout the pandemic. 

 

Her work is in several private and museum collections nationally and internationally. 

Artist Statement

The Universe is a transformative process. It is full of unknown unknowns. The formation of this planet, with these materials, and the specific patterns it needed for humans and everything else to evolve as we have… the minuscule odds of this are astounding. And yet we are here, participating in the phenomenological world as living beings. We are aligned with nature, and the unknowable source of all that exists, whatever you choose to call it.

 

Quietistic practice (meditation) is central to my life and work. I have questions about the fundamental nature of things, and I know most of these are unanswerable. Yet there is a way in which we can trace the threads of the sacred in all that is manifest. This is what my art practice reflects. 

 

I look for the edges of things, the subtlety of the spaces between what we have names for… the mystery of the liminal, and that which is in the midst of undergoing a shift. I borrow symbolism from the ancient alchemists… those whose primary concern was not only the transmutation of materials, but the transformation of themselves into enduring beings in the process. Ceramics lends itself beautifully to this reference. The years I’ve spent studying clay and glaze chemistry have helped me to realize just how much there is to know of the wonders of nature’s systems, and that I’ve barely brushed the surface of scientific understanding, or intellectual, emotional, or spiritual knowing for that matter. But clay is a great teacher, and I’ve been able to build a relationship with these materials. They allow me to wield chemistry in ways that would otherwise only be possible through deep time and geological processes. This practice consistently fills me with wonder.

 

Some of the other imagery in my work includes that of the botanical realm. This is toward a revisionist reference to the garden of Eden, as well as a symbol for the fundamental alignment with nature that all living beings are born into. Symmetry relates to this, and I use it to represent the branching tendencies found throughout nature: rivers, roots, branches, blood and nerve systems, even evolution, and according to physicists, time. Many of the symmetrical works also embody an idea of oneness expressed through differentiation (yin/yang theory). I also draw on religious relics from various sources throughout global history, medieval manuscripts, and imagery from ancient cultures, as vehicles for understanding human nature as it has manifested in myriad ways throughout the world. 

Design Statement

My utilitarian design pieces aim to bring a sense of playful beauty and depth of experience to the everyday environment of the home. The subject matter and influences of my sculptural work and research overflow into these pieces, but the focus of this work is on creating objects that serve a practical purpose while also offering a sense of ecstatic wonder to the environment of daily life.

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