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In The Studio with Sculptor Christina McCleary

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During a recent exhibit of ceramics and sculpture at the SubBasement Artist Studios, sculptor and ceramicist Christina McCleary agreed to discuss her ideas, techniques, and process with Bmoreart’s readers. Please note: The SubBasement Artist Studios is hosting a closing reception TONIGHT – Friday, Feb 7 – for the artist from 6-9 pm.

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Name: Christina McCleary
Age: the number after 39 (I’m still coming to terms with this, LOL)
Baltimore Neighborhood: Born and raised in Edmonson Village in West Baltimore, currently living in Belair-Edison

Study or College Degrees: BFA, Maryland Institute College of Art, 1996; MFA, MICA Rinehart School of Sculpture, 2004

Studio Location: Artist’s Housing Inc, Washington Hill neighborhood of Baltimore City. I am also the ceramics manager for the Columbia Art Center in Howard County, so I spend a significant amount of time in the studios there.

Media: Ceramics, Plaster, Textiles, Paper, Wire, Eggshells, Fur and found objects

Favorite Tools: My hands!

Currently Working On: My prime medium is clay, and I am currently working ways that I can work large scale with clay, specifically paper clay for figurative work. The reason I am working with both paper and clay is that I am looking for ways to work with larger pieces without having to deal with the burden of trying to move 500 lbs of clay while its leather hard or such. Clay incorporated with paper makes it easier to move and repair. So yeah, lots of figurative work and scale- that is my current focus.

Studio Philosophy: The root of my philosophy is to ‘think about your work everyday’.

Studio Frequency: In addition to the 50 hours or so a week that I spend at the Columbia Art Center, I spend another 10-20 hours per week on my own work either in Columbia or at my studio.

Upcoming or Current shows or projects: I have an exhibit currently at the SubBasement Studio Gallery entitled ‘Work of a Moment.’ That was two years of work that encompasses clay sculpture, plaster and wire sculpture, a paper installation and textile work. I am currently working on a show entitled ‘Redirected Realities’, which is using the same mediums as my current show, but I am exploring some different thematic directives.

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How’d You Start Out as an Artist: I didn’t realize I was an artist. I just know when I was in middle school that my teachers kept asking me to decorate the hallway billboard. I actually resented the fact that they kept asking me but I came to like it because it got me out of class. In high school it was the same; teachers and other adults pushed me towards this because they saw it before I did. The final step was when a friend coerced me into applying for art school. I graduated from high school and I was working at Bennetton and I told her about a scholarship opportunity I had passed up. She was my supervisor; she told me that if I didn’t call and find out if the opportunity was still available she was going to fire me. It turns out that my high school hadn’t granted the scholarship to anyone; but it was November and I thought there was no way I was going to be able to get it. I was wrong; I registered and was enrolled at MICA two months later.

Artist Whose Career You Covet: I covet the career of Christina McCleary, world renowned sculptor! I covet the artist that I would like to become. I see myself being able to show my work all over the place and having the chance to grow as an artist as a result. As far as a person whom I look toward, I really admire Beth Cavener-Stichter. I was able to attend her workshop here in Baltimore, and I have followed her work- she has a strong reputation as an artist and she is an innovator. She is a great teacher too. I feel like I can be all those things as well, and have success getting my work shown.

Artist Whose Work You Wish You Had Made: Jocelyn Châteauvert and Martin Puryear are two artists whose work I wish I made; Puryear has a level of precision and scale that I would like to approach. His work is just awe inspiring. Châteauvert has an emotional depth that overwhelms me. She inspired me to work with paper- I did a show a few years ago after I saw her pieces at the Smithsonian’s 2007 Renwick Invitational, and the thing that I took away from her work is that she articulates emotion with her paper in a way that allows the expression of ideas that escapes words…like if you are trying to tell someone you love them and you can’t really convey how much you love them. I want to be able to hold conversations like that with my work.

How You Get Through the Dull Times: I am a ‘Law and Order’ junkie; actually I like police procedural series in general; but I don’t like how they have sexed up the newer series. I guess I like the way a show like that takes you through a process. I also like the way the shows give you a peek into what gives people their motivation; I feel like I struggle with that in life, so it gives me insight.

What Motivates You: Now that I actually accept the idea that I am an artist, its the work. I love making work and I can’t imagine being anything other that who and what I am. I have a Son, nieces and nephews that all give me pause when I have the impulse to drive off into the countryside and set up shop in a barn somewhere…. these are my primary motivations.

To see more of Christina McCleary’s work, check out her website here.

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*Author Cara Ober is Editor at Bmoreart

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