The material verse agency of the innate
Levy, Matthew John
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As technology advances, people around the world are losing, to a large degree, the material intelligence that once allowed humanity to engage and create from the world around them. In the field of ceramics alone more artists have streamlined their understanding of process and even the very nature of the substances they use daily, such as clay. I believe that by sourcing and processing local materials, if not indigenous to the area in which I live, Bozeman Montana, I can create works that speak directly to the landscape in which these materials are found. Further, by understanding the very chemical makeup of these rocks and clays I can develop ways to display these elements, such as copper, iron and manganese through installation art and utilitarian vessels. Creating installation art made of raw, unprocessed clay and supported by internal steel frames, I sought to display the plasticity of clays along with their inherent weaknesses which are exposed as the materials dry and crack apart. In addition, I created modular tiles made from fused, crushed rock sourced from the area surrounding Butte, Montana. These modular panels and pavers speak to the latent abilities of refractory minerals like Silica, Alumina and Feldspar to melt at lower temperatures when combined together. Called a eutectic, this phenomenon is crucial for the creation of ceramic materials and glazes. In conjunction with installation-based art, I have shared my understanding of materiality by 'stretching' crushed rocks like granites and even man-made mining byproducts such as copper slag as glazes over utilitarian vessels. As a glaze the metals and other elements found in these materials create rich and vibrant surfaces, speaking to the landscapes from which they are found. Finally, in this paper, I will discuss how a deeper understanding of materiality is essential to humanity's advancement and how the very agency that these inanimate objects invoke is larger than we perceive.