Ceramic sculptor Allison Luce can hold her own among her peers scattered across the globe, but unlike many of them, her work is deeply informed by her faith.
Im interested in clay as a metaphor for the body, the biblical from dust we came, to dust we return, she says.
The Serpent Tree, Luces exhibition at Central Piedmont Community Colleges Elizabeth Ross Gallery, includes two projects: The Serpent Tree, a collection of pieces completed over several years, and Ancient Expanse, a sprawling wall installation.
Luce, who lives in Mooresville, never intended to work in ceramics. Her undergraduate degrees, from Ohio University, are in painting and art history. When she began graduate studies at New Yorks Hunter College, she made complex paintings with sculptural components and paper forms but the work kept breaking, so Luce switched to clay in her final year.
For The Serpent Tree, Luce went to the story of Adam and Eve to explore physical and spiritual shortcomings.
I was drawn to the theme of always wanting the one thing we cant have and the idea of desire that leads to destruction, she says.
Filled with subtle folds, shapes, and hair-like tufts of wire, these pieces are sensuous without being overtly sexual. They are expressions of how living things thrive and then decay.
Wicked Game has a raw quality that gives it depth and mystery. Although it is a delicate-looking floral form, it sprouts protrusions that resemble teeth, hair and snakes.
Even If incorporates techniques from Luces past as a painter, when she used a lot of collage elements. It includes bulbous forms that, on close inspection, turn out to be plastic grapes. Lush and fleshy, it is filled with formal beauty, oddness and humor.
The wall installation Ancient Expanse, which looks like a swirling formation of sea creatures, came about by chance. During an artist residency in a coastal area of Denmark, Luce started making test tiles in order to experiment with different textures. After people commented that the tiles looked like shells, Luce realized that what she regarded as a technical exercise was actually inspired by her surroundings.
She decided to scatter the tiles on the beach and photograph them, with the intent of displaying just the prints in a gallery setting. But she later came to see the tiles themselves as exhibition-worthy.
At the Ross Gallery, the photographs presented as a slideshow on a laptop include an image of a crab walking across the tiles, oblivious to the fact that they are contrivances, not works of nature.
Of the more than 1,000 tiles she has made, Luce estimates that there are 400 to 600 on display here. And she is still making them.
It seems like a project, she says, that has no ending.