The second artist in my personal international top 10 is Alexandra Engelfriet. I have a very strong personal connection to the work of this artist that relates to the way I discovered her. Almost two years ago I divorced a man who was not only marriage partner but a ceramist and a collaborator. The first few months following our separation was a very difficult time for me. Although I was in school, and so felt very powerfully connected to art and sculpture, I had lost touch with a connectedness that is so essential to work in clay. My BFF would often send me videos through this time, mostly things that were dirty or funny and lots of music, but also videos made by artists and art videos. I often think this exchange was the beginning of my obsession with video as medium. The Alexandra Engelfrit video came on a particularly difficult day, and literally resurrected something in me that I was sure had died. In the video she works alone in her studio, in silence, sculpting a glorious form. No fussy attachment techniques were needed for the very plastic natural looking clay she uses. In the course of the well edited and shot video she builds a vessel that seems to grow from the earth its made of.
In that incredible synthesis of complexity and directness, I remembered why it was I chose clay as a medium nearly 20 years prior, and though my former partner was completely woven into that experience my connection to the material could be enough to point to a future.
There also seemed to be great meaning in the form itself. So many branches coming from the central pillar. It reminded me of my connections to the people who were in my life, my friends, my children, parents, so many connections, all centered together, connected and essentially one.
Engelfriet collaborates with the earth itself. Her work is the story of the body and the earth. Her videos are a sort of sculptural performance where, like in the above video, she makes her gallery work, or in others such as the three posted below, she uses great effort and massive labor to give the same undulating form to the earth itself.
There are many videos that I love, but I will not post them all here, rather I will post three from a recent public work in Le Vent des Forêts in France. the videos follow the progress of the work through its making, firing and finished stages. The videos follow her formula. No sound track but the effort of her body in the making and the sound of the world around her.