Justine SavedraArcata, California

Red Lodge Clay Center – Short-Term Resident 2023 (ASPN)

I’ve always had a deep affinity for nature and the little creatures that creep and crawl on the ground and under rocks. I spent most of my time in my adolescence chasing frogs and playing outside but always had a hard time connecting with other kids. I’ve always felt odd and out of place. This translated into me drawing creatures and sculpting little figurines any chance I got. Growing up and experiencing trauma and the beauty of other human connections has motivated me to continue making art, in fact it feels necessary for me. Today I am finding my own voice and identity through ceramic sculpture and underglaze painting at Cal Poly Humboldt State University in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program.

The work I make focuses on the small and vulnerable. Rodents, birds, rabbits, and fawns are often the main subjects in my work. All of these creatures are characteristically fragile and tender, but they also represent resilience. They are everywhere within nature despite being so susceptible to violence as prey. I often include a wound or genetic anomaly to my figures with foliage peeking out, or moths and butterflies sipping from the blood. This contradiction of growth and life combined with pain and decay highlights the resilience of these figures. Despite a painful wound, through the passage of time new life begins to grow around it. I’d like to think these creatures have an ancestral whisper encouraging them to survive…to hold on until new growth begins. When I make these figures, I am able to evoke within myself a sense of power and courage that reminds me that I am small but resilient; wounded but growing. The ancestral whisper to survive exists within me as I too am a part of nature.

My work sometimes includes animals with genetic anomalies such as two heads or many legs. These anomalies are tragic but fascinating. The viewer is drawn in by the preciousness of the figure but unsettled by the oddness of the form. This is representative of feeling like an outsider; an oddity that is struggling to find a sense of belonging. As someone with mental health problems I often feel odd and unable to find a place for myself within certain spaces. By creating work around this narrative, I am able to examine internal aspects of myself and feel comfortable within myself.