(American, b. 1947)
Karen Shapiro derives her art from what's already there. It doesn't have to be studied, interpreted or understood. Her ceramic sculpture is what it is. Shapiro's ceramics represent items that are used, and they look it. Each piece speaks to an era or a season, an event or a time when the item belonged in the life of the viewer. Karen takes “everyday” objects, frequently larger-than-life in our memories and presents them to the collector as precious and now larger-than-life in person.
My first recorded attempts at artistic expression were at the ripe age of 5 years or so when I painstakingly painted the adobe brick walls surrounding our house in Tucson. The records of these attempts are the scratchy old home movies taken years ago -- the painted images being executed in nothing but tap water and disappearing instantly in the Arizona sun. Years later I majored in art in high school where I began working in clay and continued in this medium as a design major in college. After college and continuing until a year or so ago, my medium changed drastically to a more edible art form in the shape of a long, hard career as a pastry chef.
I am now happily out of the kitchen and back into the ceramics studio where I am finding great joy in working in a sculpture style which is new for me. In earlier years, my emphasis was on abstract form. Upon reentering the ceramic studio at the College of Marin, under the tutelage of the ever-inspiring energy and talent of Anne Peet Carrington, I naturally tried to take up where I had left off many years ago. I was immediately frustrated and disappointed to see that those "perfect" forms would no longer come from my hands. Instead, I was drawn to the form of a milk carton, then to my espresso pot from Italy, next to an artichoke from the market -- in other words, I found an inexhaustible source of fascinating shapes and forms staring at me from all sides.
Now I find myself jumping around from vegetables to nail polish bottles and lipsticks, to crayons and on and on, and in addition to these wonderful objects I have also discovered the raku kiln. The excitement of reaching into a red-hot environment with tongs, of the flaming bucket, even the choking smoke, and finding results I never dreamt of -- always changing, always so much to learn -- has given me back an enormous energy, appetite and passion for my work. It's an adventure I've just begun, and I look forward to many fulfilling years and ever more exciting results which I hope to share with as many people as may also find them interesting and fun.