Red Lodge Clay Center Long-Term Resident 2018-19, Short-Term Resident 2017
Kelsey Bowen is from a small town in California where hot summers were often spent outside with dust and thistles in her socks. Her youth was categorized in animals; both the pets that surrounded her and the molded plastic ones she played with, alone, for hours at a time. These items and creatures translate into her work as characters and stand-ins for the human form and serve as vessels for her self-reflection, explorations, and storytelling in clay. She sees her work as the illustration of personal narratives and borrowed tales, like the drawings in a children’s book. While often dark in concept, her pieces sweetly invite close inspection through their pastel and soft appearance only to repel or jar with quietly twisted details.
Kelsey received her BFA in Ceramics from the California College of the Arts in Oakland, California, and was most recently creating work as a Long Term Artist in Residence at the Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana. She has participated in various exhibitions with her work, including a publication in Ceramics Monthly, the California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Arts in Davis, the American Museum of Ceramic Arts in Los Angeles, and her BFA solo exhibition in the California Bay Area.
When I’m working on a piece, I feel in fleeting moments that it’s come to life. I give them bright bows and dark memories, bringing them to reality with whispered stories. I work with my own personal narratives to develop a darkly whimsical illustration by building a new story that reinvents a past moment or a current truth. I see a beautiful darkness in childhood and nostalgia, in the way memories shift and shudder as we grow farther apart from them. Like looking at the drawings of a children’s book before reading the story, I invite others to find pieces of themselves hidden in the details of my work where childhood exists somewhere between the fairytale and nightmare. I find parallels back to youth in our interactions as adults, navigating our lives affected by our pasts and our stories. These navigations inspire me to create, to make sculptures that exist in our tangible space as vessels capable of holding the whispers of stories both shared and untold.