Renee Rouillier tells of stories made not born Renee Rouillier’s ceramic sculptures often stop viewers in their tracks, halting them long enough to conjure up their own versions of the story the piece is trying to tell them. Like imagery from art of the Surrealists and German Expressionists, to whose work the artist has long been drawn, there may be lurking within her pieces an edge, a dark side – or an unforeseen side of reality. Rouillier’s art continues to turn, evolve, even though she has progressed now far beyond her initial and protracted “vessel” period. Speaking of art in the round, she arrived at ceramics circuitously, having worked her around many of fine arts’ genres: drawing, painting, and textiles. But she seldom circles back anymore. So smitten was she with ceramics when she discovered this medium, she decided to continue learning, building, and in time that decision became her ticket – so far, one way - to Columbia, and the University of South Carolina into whose Master of Fine Arts program she was accepted. After she completed her degree, she was an adjunct faculty member for eight years, loving the opportunity to work with students and loving being involved in their creative development. “When I tried ceramics, I knew that was it,” Rouillier recalled of her formative art studies in Brockport, New York, close to the Canadian border her forebears crossed. “I love the mind-hand connection, love how malleable the material is, love being able to forge something from it.” It has not been unusual for her to make ceramic pieces multi-media by weaving or carving on them. Yet, in getting up to her elbows into clay, she didn’t leave behind any of those earlier forms of creativity; in each of her evocative clay sculptures, all the other media still come into play – and that is no pun. Every work has been a culmination of her earlier art making, only now there are slips and glazes, and clay to receive her evocative concepts. Her creations appeal to other homo sapiens because they are lifelike. Rouillier’s highly-conceptual clay sculpture is crafted with obvious notes taken from the human form; they are imbued with lifelike characteristics – you might even say a bit of attitude, and often with playful adaptations. Donna Green of Southern Pottery, where Rouillier’s work is represented, described the pieces as “very personal – profound.” How each viewer or “touchy-feeler” responds to her textural art is as inimitable as the piece itself. “I am honored when someone buys my work,” said the gentile-speaking Rouillier.
“But I have to admit it has been hard sometimes for me to let a piece go. I am fortunate that I know where many of my pieces are, who bought them, and that gives me great pleasure and comfort.” Rouillier keeps some of the clay sculptures around – they are good company. They inhabit her home and take their places on walls, tablescapes, and ledges alongside collected works by colleagues and other artists. “Like many artists who may not have a lot materially, I do have great art!” Fellow graduate students and later collaborators with whom she has swapped pieces have been even more important as a collegial sounding board for her. “It is so productive to work in an environment in which you can step out of your studio and exchange ideas, ask for an opinion and know you will get a straight – informed and, usually nurturing - answer.” Having ready access to such input is one half of her ideal work environment; the other half is solitude. When she is deeply focused on building a piece, she finds it jarring to be interrupted. “It is difficult to immediately regain that intensity. Having a positive environment is so essential to the creative process, and I have been fortunate to find that at the City Clay Center.” The intensity of Rouillier’s work is an easily-understood explanation for why it often is described as passionate. But another reason is that the pieces convey poignant messages – in any of several ways. “There are so many issues and situations that can be addressed through art, and I hope, and intend my art to raise questions,” Rouillier said. Her series Silent Conversation is a great example. Curiosity is piqued, but subtlety - the sculptor permeates the clay with a recognizable emotion, in this case, the familiar banter between a co-joined maternal figure and the mother’s clay spawn. Just a tilt of a featureless head conveys they are attuned. And since they aren’t two separate figures - the smaller one seems to emanate from the larger one - Rouillier has addressed another situation. “Cloning and genetic altering is so much in our news, filtering into our societal DNA, and technology has also caused much more social isolation and inequity of available resources. Advances in science and technology, although beneficial, pose questions, trigger consequences. There seems to be too little accountability for our actions.” She hopes her art gives the viewer pause. No artistic cloner is she. She enjoys studying the works of other ceramists, but she cannot even be accused of imitating her own work; each piece can stand alone. “Duplicating a piece is
Published on Sep 10, 2011
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