Allen Chen – Red Lodge Clay Center

Allen ChenHattiesburg, Mississippi

Red Lodge Clay Center Long-Term Resident 2010-11

Allen Chen was born in Taiwan and moved to California at age 12. Allen earned his BFA from San Jose State University and MFA from University of Notre Dame. He has been a long-term artist in residence at Mendocino Art Center, Red Lodge Clay Center and Lawrence Arts Center. Allen was an assistant professor at Central State University from 2012~2014, and he is currently an assistant professor at University of Southern Mississippi.

Like most sculptors, I explore possible experiences shared in an object when it’s interpreted as art.  Currently I am interested in the relationship between the vessel and its contents: how vessels contain and transport the intended content and how that relationship alters both properties. Characteristics of vessels are expressed and revealed as responses to the changing environment. For example, seedpods as a vessel will reveal the condition and maturity of the seeds inside through the characteristics of its surface texture, aroma and color; which is also a response to the environment of its location. Is the environment suitable for the seed to sprout and extract nutrient from the soil, or does the seedpod need to emit aroma to attract another transport vessel to devour and outfit the current vessel with its feces so that upon delivery it can access a more suitable location for sprouting? This process can be looked at as a packaging and delivery process, which we can interpret as metaphor. So in the context of language, this idea of packaging an idea with metaphor before delivering its content in the form of meaning is reflective of how most of the observable world works. We don’t simply receive information as is, in order to understand and absorb raw content, we package it with context in order to understand the information.

The conceptual relationship between the vessel and content leads directly to the rigors of technical research in studio activities. This is the engine of all research effort where new ideas of possible vessel forms and surface properties are developed, recorded and built upon for the next sequential project. The technical aspect of clay body formulation, ceramics surface treatment and sculpting processes is the heart of my studio activity. Creating variations of the vessel and suspending them in an exhibition space is a study of possible environment the vessels are responding to- through space. I hope that through these installations of the ceramic vessel, we can explore possible experiences that we respond to by moving physically around the sculptures.