Al Holen – Red Lodge Clay Center

Al HolenEvansville, Indiana

Red Lodge Clay Center – Short-Term Resident 2022

Alisa (AL) Holen is an artist and educator who received an MA and an MFA in Ceramics from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. She has since taught ceramics and sculpture at numerous institutions including University of Iowa, University of Nebraska, Omaha, Augustana College, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse and Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, MS. She is currently an Associate Professor of Art at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, IN. 

Born and raised in Minneapolis with a father (Norman D. Holen) who is a sculptor and art professor, she was introduced to both functional and sculptural art early. Her childhood home is filled with stunning sculptural art displayed with curatorial acumen. However, the tableware of Warren Mackenzie, peter Leach, and Chuck Halling captured her imagination as the works were still beautiful, but she was allowed to touch and use them! 

Her ceramic work focuses on formal and metaphorical relationships, forms that nest into one another, forms that are pierced, pushed, elevated, and encompassed by each other. While nearly all of the work is functional, it maintains a sculptural presence. When someone uses the work, the relationship metaphor is fully realized. 

Alisa Holen strongly advocates using art to engage the community and organizes yearly “Empty Bowls” events to raise money for local charities and to introduce people to working with clay. 


Both metaphorically and as a three-dimensional design quandary, the nuances of relationships fascinate me. My work seeks to create dialogues and relationships between contrasting forms. Special attention is given to the shapes and textures, swells and voids of their interactions. Beyond this, there is something immensely satisfying about finding artistic solutions to functional problems. There is such a rich and varied history in functional ceramics, that I enjoy keeping my work inside the boundary of ‘functional’, even if the presence of the piece is overwhelmingly sculptural. 

The simple fact is that I love working with the clay, and making functional and contemplative pieces. It is the physicality of the making that brings me the most joy. A day in the studio is a great day… there is nothing more satisfying than full ware boards. It is gratifying to use skills that have been learned and honed over time to bring something useful into this world from a formless mass of clay. It’s taking part in a long history, and it connects me with the past. When my work is used by others, a new relationship is formed, and the relationship metaphor is fully realized. I am proud and humbled to be a part of this remarkable ceramics continuum.