Last night I had an opportunity to listen to Alice Ballard (www.aliceballard.com)speak about her life and work at Hodges Taylor Gallery. She has long been a favorite artist of mine. Over and over I have come around a corner in a gallery to see a piece of hers and been stopped in my tracks. The desire to touch her work is always overwhelming for me. The pieces are always based on natural objects that happen to appear in her life– perhaps stumbled upon on a walk outdoors, or sometimes arriving in the mail– gifts from a sympathetic friend.
It seems to me they are often generative forms– pods, seeds or bulbs– carriers of the next generation of life. Not always, but often they are cool and sensuous white forms, coated in silky terra sigillata, and burnished to a soft glow. It was interesting to hear of her journey as an artist from two dimensional painting to sculpture, and of her love for hand building. Her formal education centered on painting, and her sculptural studies were all self-taught.
Many of her most intriguing forms were sleek pinch pots. She explained how the act of pinching the clay compresses it and adds to its strength. She also gave insights into her process, including the occasional working of the piece upside down which allows gravity to act as a partner in the construction.
Alice Ballard posited the theory that the most important events in an artist’s life often happen before the age of six. She talked about her own memories of being at her grandmother’s farm and being given beans and corn to plant wherever she liked. The magical thing was being there long enough to see them sprout. It is easy to see how those childhood experiences were seed for this contemporary work.