By Martha Keeffe —
Ceramic artist Lisa Truax loves the concept of untouched, natural spaces.
She also recognizes that as we interact with our environment—no matter how seemingly insignificant the interaction may be—we affect it. “It’s that relationship we have to our environment that interests me,” says Truax. “That we often create, plan, build and maintain landscapes as part of our culture.”
This connection to a natural place and how we unconsciously relate to it has been a lifelong fascination for Traux. “When I was a kid I was a rock hound,” she says. “At that time, I wasn’t intentional in my thought beyond just liking them, and I think that’s why people collect things like stones and bring them home. Those items remind us of our fascination with natural objects.”
As an adult, Truax continues to bring rocks into her home, along with coral, buckets of clay, and found objects. As a studio artist and associate professor of art and design at St. Mary’s University in Winona, she investigates ways to capture the essence of native materials and their natural place, integrating them into created sculptures. By fusing these materials, she hopes to convey a contrast between what we perceive to be natural and what are modern ways of building and living.
To create this effect, Truax takes selected objects from a favorite natural area. Through a process of kiln firing and refiring, which causes the materials to melt, flow, crack and bind together, she alternates layers of stoneware, paint, glaze and co-mingled treasures to add interest, texture and a sense of place. What emerges is an amalgamation of gritty bubbles, crackled glass and curious textures that mimic the forces of nature. “People often think that what they are looking at is naturally occurring, when it’s actually something I planned. To do this, I have used local materials I picked up in places like Pinckney State Recreation Area in Michigan, Devil’s Lake near Baraboo, and the Virgin Islands. But when I mix them with recycled stained glass, for example, their source becomes less obvious.”
To help viewers understand the concept behind her abstracts, Truax constructs her installations to be approachable and engaging. Many of her pieces are contained within wooden frames suitable for hanging on the wall, and other, much larger pieces have been displayed on the floor or suspended from the ceiling. To further the concept, Truax uses a 3-D printer to make a topographic mold of the natural spaces from which she has taken materials. From this mold, she creates a small, porcelain companion piece for her abstracts and presents them together. “I hope that when these pieces are shown together, the viewers will make a connection to our environment and what that means.”
Using her art to share the message of how we respond to our natural spaces has been a lifelong passion for Truax. And whether the message is seen in her functional pottery, her interactions with students or by viewing one of her sculptures, Truax simply hopes people consider it. “Does created nature affect us the same way as natural places? This is something I’ve always questioned.”
For more information and to view more pieces of Lisa’s natural artwork, visit www.redreduction.com.