Mary Lee Kerr
From the first time I dug into a block of moist clay, I knew sculpture was my medium. Making portraits and figures, I could bring life to the hunk of clay in my hands and express something about my place in the world. For 30 years, I have studied and created clay sculptures, gradually mastering the technical aspects of the medium and constantly searching for the best way to express my ideas. While I have done purely abstract sculptures, I find myself returning again and again to the face and figure as the best vehicles for expressing human emotion. I am fascinated by how the tilt of the head or angle of the body changes the entire feeling of the figure.
I create woman figures split in many parts, dissected by competing priorities. These sculptures tell a story of multiplicity of the lives of so many women, who juggle spouses, children, work, parents, friendships and their own needs. For example, the title of the sculpture Zerrissenheit is a German word meaning “pulled-to-pieces-hood” a term that characterizes the lives of most women who struggle to find peace among the competing demands of work, family and self. My large portrait resting on a mirror up to her ears in water reflects a calm meditative state on one hand, but also expresses the sense of being on the verge of drowning in the sea of life, overwhelmed by too many people and competing priorities. Then, beyond the struggles within each individual, there seem to be escalating conflicts all around us, between countries, racial and ethnic groups, our own politicians in Washington, and within our communities—more pieces to add to our complicated lives.
I received training at art schools and studios around the country, including the Torpedo Factory in Virginia, the Loveland Academy of Art in Colorado, the Scottsdale Artists’ School in Arizona, Touchstone Center for Crafts near Pittsburgh, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I have exhibited my work in galleries and art shows in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Australia.
You can see more work on my website: www.KerrSculpture.com.
How to Love a Minotaur (Artist’s Statement)
The struggle to find one’s place, to fit in, is universal and timeless. We are all born into circumstances beyond our control; born into a time, a place, a paradigm in which we are complicit without consent. Guilty by association. And everybody, at one time or another, has felt like the monster in the room. The freak. For many, the obstacles are more abundant and entrenched. For others, privilege is a double-edged weapon. In this photo series, How to Love a Minotaur, I chronicle the horned mongrel’s search for home, for belonging, for love, in small scale−HO scale− in three dimensions. I cut and graft the man to the bull, the bull to the man, and pose them, and shoot them, then supersize the images. For me, it is about incongruity, juxtaposition, contradiction, projection, desire, denial, justification, redemption, the suspension of disbelief, narrative tension…and on and on. The stuff that makes up all of our mythologies (personal and cultural) about home and self.
Over the years I have chronicled my personal journey, as an outsider, predominantly in writing. I have five novels in the world, most met with critical acclaim. I am a prolific painter. And for the last couple of years I’ve been making music (or noise, anyway). In all these mediums, my aesthetic voice is the same. My paintings and photographs look like my novels which sound like my songs. Too, my content, and that as a vehicle to convey the themes and issues that are important to me, is consistent. Humans engaged in the messy business of being human, sometimes rising above the base, sometimes failing miserably. The character of the Minotaur character, as I have cast him, endeavors to overcome the identity he was born into the world with. I suspect that that is why I was invited to contribute to this show.
I graduated from Penn State in 1972 with a Bachelors degree in Art Education and entered the business world upon graduation. I spent 25 years managing a restaurant and bar in State College (Village Inn/Billiards & Brew) and another 25 years in the S.C.A.S.D. as a para/cued speech interpreter (still employed).
State College has been my home for 60+ years. I was born in Lewistown, PA and married my high school sweetheart, Dannette (Shaffer) Owens. My daughter, Tara, and her husband, Billy Huber, live in Austin, TX with our two grandchildren, Landon (4rd grade) and Giselle (1st grade). My son, Matthew, is currently attending grad school at the University of South Carolina (the real USC!) working on a Masters in Licensed Clinical Social Work.
Why sunsets? In the summer of 1997, while taking a family vacation abroad, I decided to call home to my brother just to check in on things. The call was from a phone booth (way before cell phones!) on the busy streets of Paris. My brother had the misfortune of having to tell me that my mother had suddenly passed away a few days earlier. I was in shock! There were lots of tears and I didn’t know what to do. Should I leave my family and fly back to the USA somehow? My brother said that there was no need to do anything. There wouldn’t be a service until the fall when the whole family could get together. But I still felt helpless… useless… like I should have been there! A few hours after that call home, there was a beautiful sunset over the city of Paris. In my deep shock and despair, this sunset spoke to me. It was a message from my mother saying, “Everything is ok… I’m fine and you will be ok too.” Ever since then, when I see a beautiful sunset, I see a message from my mother!
Please visit my website at: www.facebook.com/centresunsets. Most of my sunset photos were taken here in the Centre Region. Since my daughter lives in Texas, there are some sunsets from that area, as well as a few other places across the USA. Most of the photographs can be ordered in smaller or larger sizes.