Mary Lee Kerr

Artist Statement

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: