A first glance at Fawn Clarke-Peterson’s sculpture reveals the influence texture and touch has had on the artist’s works.
In addition to her sculptures being three-dimensional, the pieces grab the viewer’s attention with their ceremonial and tactile look. The sculptures are complicated, yet simple, and they leave much interpretation up to the viewer.
“I consider myself very tactile and enjoy creating pieces that are different,” says Clarke-Peterson, who lives in Aurora. “It’s really hard for me not to touch anything — this is one reason why I’m drawn to sculpture.”
According to her artist statement, “… growing up in a Catholic household, I found magic in the ceremony, in the relics and the artifacts of that culture. That culture also esteemed the ‘sacred object’ — things of magic and mystery that hold the essence of what is true and real. I often see my work as an enduring struggle to define the context of the world in which I exist … .”
Clarke-Peterson’s work is divided into two categories — sculptural and functional. Her sculptural work includes various abstract sculptures and wall sculptures made from different materials including porcelain and wood, but the predominant material she uses is clay.
“I find clay to be an excellent vehicle for my expression,” she says. “Clay is my medium of choice because it feels good.”
“My sculpture draws a lot from the viewer and evokes many different ideas,” she continues. “Ten years from now, the sculpture may take on a completely different meaning to the viewer than it does presently. Sometimes it’s like reading a book.”
Clarke-Peterson, who has a gallery at Water Street Studios in Batavia, says her work straddles an inter-realism between formal European modernism and Japanese.
“There is an edge between them which interests me,” she says. “Much of my sculpture is a metaphor for order and chaos.”
Clarke-Peterson’s functional work, such as vases and dinnerware pieces like platters and cups, are just as much sculptural pieces as functional.
“I spend as much time with these pieces thinking about the object as a whole,” she says. “For example, regarding some platters I’m currently working on, the way the piece sits on the table is just as important as the side where the food is placed.”
“My functional pieces have soul — they are not mass-produced,” she continues. “The pieces still serve a function, such as holding heat [if it’s a mug], but it can also enrich the person over time. The user feels the handle and knows it’s handcrafted. It has a psychological effect upon the user, too. I hope my work gives them some joy and the joy of contemplation.”
Power is a theme throughout Clarke-Peterson’s work.
“Power is an unmistakable and necessary function of social structure,” she says. “I am fascinated by the nature of this relationship and the subtleties involved in its articulation … . It is a tenuous balance between participants, their drives, their interaction and, most significantly, their choices.”
An Artist’s Insight
Clarke-Peterson holds a Master’s of Fine Arts degree in ceramics from Northern Illinois University, where she also studied art history.
“The Book of Kells and the Middle Ages have always been my favorite periods in art history,” she says.
She also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history and a minor in art from Winona State University. She credits Seymour Byman, a professor at Winona, as having a tremendous influence on her life.
“[He made] me who I am now,” she says. “I was privileged enough to have him as a professor.”
Clarke-Peterson has taught a variety of art classes, including drawing, ceramics, art history, art appreciation and design at several institutions such as Moraine Valley Community College in Palos Hills; Waubonsee Community College in Sugar Grove; and the Illinois Institute of Art in Schaumburg.
“As a teacher, sometimes I have to clarify to my students to continue with their projects — I have taught and have been taught by my students,” Clarke-Peterson says.
She has used this insight she receives from students in her own work.
“I follow up on my pieces that I have done in the past,” she says. “Many times, these pieces are experimental. It’s not about the end product, but about the creation process. I follow the material and discover a new way to create the piece.”
To view some of Clarke-Peterson’s work or for more information, visit www.fawnclarkepeterson.com. kc