Kristen Cliffel

Sursum Corda
low fire clay, glaze, polycarbonate
53 x 27 x 27

(b. 1967 – Akron, OH) Kristen Cliffel’s vibrantly colored ceramic pieces are intricately detailed and masterfully rendered. Varying in size from minute to several feet tall installations, Cliffel’s work tends to be whimsical and imaginative, yet anchored by themes found in her daily life (motherhood, balancing work with family, and the psychosexual entanglements of love). While it would be understandable to omit some of the more miniscule details of an object, Cliffel does no such thing, diligently accounting for every hair, feather, roof shingle, and blade of grass within her pieces. The artist finds joy in the ceramic crafts her art references. Yet she is also a highly subversive artist, twisting the typically comforting narratives found in craft into darker, artful descriptions of the actual lives we lead.

In this exquisitely fired piece, a mythical flower ladder descends toward a remote hilltop. It’s a readymade ascension point for the longers and dreamers among us ready for some heavenly reward.

Cliffel received a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art. She completed residencies at the Banff Arts Center, Canada, and Kohler Company, WI. Her work can be found in a number of museums across the country including, the Akron Art Museum, San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, TX, and the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI. She is the recipient of the Cleveland Arts Prize in Visual Arts (2016), the Individual Excellence Award, Ohio Arts Council (2015), and the Creative Workforce Fellowship from the Community Partnership for Arts & Culture (2013). Cliffel has been a visiting artist at a number of educational institutions, including Malone University, Kent State University, and the Cleveland Institute of Art.

From the nominating artist: 

I find Kristen Cliffel’s imagery, scale and the tactility in her work to be incredibly poignant and engaging on a variety of levels. I enjoy her playful and sly humor and am always drawn to her color and the sense of irreverence and mischief. As a sculptor myself, I am well aware of the amount of labor and dedication that goes into her work and am impressed by her prodigious output.
— Isabel Farnsworth

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