Featured Artist Donna Polseno – Red Lodge Clay Center

Featured Artist Donna PolsenoJul 08, 2023 - Jul 29, 2023

Curatorial Statement

Exhibition Posted Online: Monday, July 10, 2023 at 10 am MT


Donna Polseno:

I grew up in Connecticut where my father was a painter and illustrator who supported his family of four with his work. My mother was the handiest woman I ever met. I loved watching my father work and art was the only thing I ever got praise for in high school so I ended up at the Kansas City Art Institute where I fell under the spell of ceramics and Ken Ferguson. I went on to study with Wayne Higby and got a graduate degree from RISD.

I then moved, with my husband/potter Richard Hensley, to rural Floyd, VA in the Blue Ridge Mountains to set up our studio, where we have always lived and worked and raised a family. I have always been a studio potter and sculptress with more than the occasional teaching experiences thrown in. I have taught at most of the craft/art schools over the years such as Penland, Anderson Ranch, Banff Center, Arrowmont.

I have taught summer programs at several colleges such as University of Michigan and Alfred University. I have been an artist in residence in Turkey, Jingdezhen, China, and the Archie Bray Foundation. I live every summer now in a remote village in Liguria, Italy and teach in Tuscany at La Meridiana School for Ceramics. I have been honored by the NEA with 2 artists fellowships and received a Virginia Museum artists grant. I am currently the director of “Women Working with Clay”- an annual symposium that takes place at Hollins University where I teach part time.

I strive to make pottery that carries with it a sense of energy and life that can only be enhanced when used for the presentation of food and flowers. Most pieces are slip cast and then often altered, added on to, or reconstructed in some way. I use a mid-range white casting slip.

I have made many different types of pottery over my career, but have always been interested in the way decorative elements can be used to enhance a form, whether one is using an elaborate pattern or the simplest marks. The decorative elements of my work are influenced by the natural world. I was brought up to always notice and take joy in nature.

I have lived my whole life in a rural environment. My images are usually of grasses, leaves, flowers, and nowadays birds. I grew into the bird imagery years after my father, a well known landscape and bird painter passed away.

I have always been attracted to certain qualities of the decorative arts in Asia. I attribute this to living next door to the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City while in Art School there. More recently two long working sojourns in China, which gave me abundant access to seeing Yuan and Han Dynasty ritualistic forms, influenced the sculptural aspects of my pieces. My glazing method is the use of multiple layers of compatible glazes, using wax resist and liquid latex to create a kind of visual depth.