University of Arizona
College of Fine Arts - School of Art

School of Art Galleries


Medium: Ceramic, glaze
Date: 2020
Dimensions: 24″ x 6″ x 6″

Dan Newman

My art is an internalization and expression of my experience of being at odds with myself. Social psychology tells us that holding opposing and contradictory beliefs is common and may be fundamental to understanding the human condition. The sculpture I make reflects this cognitive dissonance in my daily life, by utilizing the tension between representation and abstraction, conventional beauty and the grotesque, industrial and organic, and moralistic concepts of good and evil. My creative process is a constant push and pull between automatic and conscious control. I work intuitively with materials as individual forms or more complex groups of signifying shapes that combine associatively. I find a charge in my sculptures when there is a binary opposition at play, like electricity combining a negative and positive charge to create energy. In my recent work with clay, a material chosen for its plasticity and direct malleability, I begin each sculpture by making a vessel. I think of the vessel as a visual battery. Inside is infinitesimal space, surrounding it is infinite space, the vessel is a demarcation of space, philosophically highlighting its negative and positive polarity. The Contemplation of infinite space induces an intuitive flow state. As I build onto or manipulate the vessel, I feel a loss of the ego, experienced as a more resonant absorption, tapping into something subconscious or even unconscious through my body’s actions, leaving its mark on the clay.

These flow states are short lived, and between them I go back to a more intentional state; during this time, I develop the sculpture in the opposite direction. For example, if a piece emerges as geomorphic, I add an industrial element. If it starts to look too crafty or “ceramic” I add a wildness to the form, breaking that convention. I also use surfacing and firing to counteract obvious associations. If a sculptural line looks graceful I may desecrate it with a surface which has an appearance of mold growth. Titling and presentation are also strategies for creating dissonance in the symbolic meaning of my work.