February 9: CSC’s Local Artist Series Welcomes Liz McCarthy
CSC’s Local Artist Series for February:
Liz McCarthy’s Whistle Making Workshop
In Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, a community of ceramic artists and students are exploring with both hands and minds at Liz McCarthy’s GnarWare Workshop. One of Chicago’s Breakout Artists for 2017, McCarthy’s brings together seekers and creators who want to pull apart the question of meaning as they cast aside inhibitions and push the boundaries of the clay form.
“I am very interested in looking at historical forms,” says McCarthy, “and how objects have taken on meaning.” She points out that clay objects are some of humanity’s earliest art works, often given symbolic value and used in rituals. “I don’t think of clay as singular – it is a very humanistic material,” she says. Her work incorporates varied media and is often presented in a performance art style, drawing a connection between the clay body and the human body. She describes her work as an exploration of possibilities and the fluid nature of truth and meaning.
At GnarWare, she encourages students to interact with clay. “We have a non-traditional approach to teaching,” she explains. She tries to shatter the expectation of being taught specific techniques directed toward creating a functional object. Much work is done one-on-one and in small groups, creating a dialogue where ideas can freely form and take shape in clay. McCarthy’s name for her studio intentionally evokes the tortuous, gnarly process of making.
Founded in 2017, the studio has twenty active members and welcomes visiting artists who wish to explore a specific idea. Recently, an artist worked with the group in creating clay chains. Another explored the human face. These projects often include the studio members. McCarthy says, “There are always people hanging around here at all hours, talking to each other and trying experimental things.
At Ceramic Supply Chicago’s Saturday workshop, McCarthy plans to talk about her whistles project. “I’ll start with some slides and talk about the cultural history of the whistle – their use and how that use leads to meanings,” she explains. She will then provide some technical instruction, encouraging participants to explore their own ideas about the form.
She has explored this idea in her Whistle Hang Outinstallation at the Museum of Contemporary Art and the South Shore Cultural Center in Chicago, at Brian’s Farm in Oxford, North Carolina, and at the Banff Centre in Banff, Canada. These presentations offer the public a chance to participate. Small whistles are given to the viewers to play, to explore, and to take home “to discover how [they work their] way into their habits and material debris.”
In a larger form, her installation, Whistles Built for Manyis a performance piece that relates the whistle form – and all objects – to the human body:
This series employs the whistle form by increasing the scale, complicating the method of interacting with the form, and pushes the actual from of the whistle to be less recognizable…. In order to play the instruments’ multiple mouth holes, the performers have to collaborate and calibrate their bodies with the object in intimate positions…. When multiple people play the same form, the whistle is a unifying object that mediates their bodies.
GnarWare Workshop Ceramics Studio does provide a more traditional selection of courses for those seeking to learn the art of clay. Intro and intermediate classes are offered in hand building and throwing for adults, along with workshops on special subjects. A staff two technicians and four teachers direct the work. Studio time is included with registration and/or membership.
Challenge your preconceptions and stop by for McCarthy’s workshop on February 9th, from 10-3, at Ceramic Supply Chicago.