Every aspect of nature plays a part in my work. Not only is the work influenced by the visual aesthetic elements of nature, but also by the spiritual and emotional elements of our physical world. The anthropomorphic qualities of all nature and all objects are very intriguing to me. I emphasize the human qualities of animals, flowers, shoes, etcetera and at the same time contrast the human vs. inhuman. Physical, mental, and emotional oppositions of extremes and uncertain boundaries are also a concern in my work, i.e., femininity vs. masculinity, awkwardness vs. grace, torment vs. ecstasy, gentleness vs. force…..

Humanity and nature mirror these aspects of each other, and frequently use these traits as weapons and or shields. I explore parallel temperaments of man and nature. The connectedness of seemingly unrelated ideas, “things” and emotions is what I personify in my work. I want to make the awkward graceful, to explore the anthropomorphic qualities of flowers and animals, the human quality of leaves, the animal aspect of humans.


Excerpted from An Alternative Iconology:
“Emily Gassenheimer’s Ceramics” by Kenneth Deal

…This is why when one encounters her pieces, it is impossible to remain detached. You just fall into them. They provoke questions about technique and form; they force contemplation of the uncertain boundaries of experience (the places where land and sea, male and female, animal and human collide); they invite deep feeling; they attack your sensibilities by being at once vulgar, garish, soothing and classical. Hers is a ceramic of tension.

Gassenheimer’s technique developed via her study at the Kansas City Art Institute and the Cranbrook Academy of Art. She uses a combination of low-fire matte, textured, and gloss glazes, unglazed terra cotta , and other methods to draw and paint on her surfaces. She often accompanies her ceramic pieces with related pastel drawings which reproduce the images in a kind of two-dimensional blow-up. She places no limitations on how many colors are used in a piece nor on their variety or range. This often creates a highly bedighted effect which works against the exaggerated and expressive simplicity of her forms. Where the form is almost always representational (usually a paradoxical combination of animals, humans, or plants), the vibrant colors and abstract patterns of the glazing are defiantly expressionistic. Each piece is an experiment in tension between two-dimensional and three-dimensional perception, pattern and form, color and texture.

If as Arthur Koestler suggests creativity is a biassociation of two frames of references, then we can see in Gassenheimer’s work a constant exploration of the idea of creative empathy. One must break down the literal barriers to achieve imaginative reformation.


Copyright © Emily Gassenheimer de Friedlander