Artist: Kip O’Krongly

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http://www.kipokrongly.com/

Artist Statement

I use functional pots as a vehicle for setting tables with visual stories.  Through everyday ceramic pieces I can subtly, and even a little subversively, explore my interest in issues surrounding food production, transportation, energy use and climate change.  Researching these interconnected contemporary themes drives my current studio practice, but the seeds of this work were sown over twenty years ago.  As a child in Alaska I witnessed first hand the devastation wrought by the expansive Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989.  In the following decades, the essence of that childhood experience simmered beneath the surface, ebbing and flowing with the world’s evolving energy story.  My subconscious inklings became concrete realities after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by food activist Michael Pollan.  Pollan’s book identified a thread running through agriculture, pesticides, fertilizers and oil – intertwining layers that have since become prominent themes in my work.  As his writing shaped my mental framework, I aimed to translate Pollan’s words into meaningful imagery, to bring ideas off the page and place them squarely in reality as physical objects at the table.

I continue to discover a seemingly endless string of food and energy related books, documentaries, articles, podcasts and radio stories that spur new directions as I reinterpret what I see and hear into ceramic objects.  While those written words in The Omnivore’s Dilemma initially inspired me to pursue images on clay, the high-tech food production documentary, Our Daily Bread, demonstrated the unique power of visuals alone.  Free of dialogue and its overt opinions, Our Daily Bread’s scenes are shot with the rumbling hum of processing equipment, the rhythmic swoosh of hand-harvesting lettuce, or the nervous clucking of chickens in transport as a soundtrack.  The result is a startling vehicle for open-ended personal interpretation, discussion and debate.  It was Our Daily Bread that encouraged me to pursue my interests in the form of visual questions, rather than rigid statements, to allow users breathing room for their own associations and connections.

The functionality of the pieces I create serves as a daily nudge to reflect on the interwoven nature of our lifestyle choices and the broader world around us.  I deeply appreciate the process of visually wrestling with contemporary challenges on beautiful daily-use ceramics – creating functional art that by its very nature compels repeated scrutiny.  Ultimately, I hope that with the regular rotation of these pots through everyday moments, users will peel back the layers of my work, open dialog with those who share their tables, and explore how their own personal actions can influence our collective future.