With its continual offerings of Zoom webinars each week, the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art will be holding an Artist Talk with Aisha Harrison — a sculptor from Olympia — who will speak about her experiences creating and transitioning her work from clay to bronze, her connection to nature as an artist and the power of placement for her public artwork.
“I work in ceramics, primarily,” she said. “I mostly make sculptures of people in various situations. A lot of times there’s some sort of element that is not based in reality necessarily but has a metaphorical meaning. I also make prints, and I do carvings.”
According to BIMA’s website, Harrison’s work as an artist and arts educator attempts to navigate the spaces between, centering through making things with your hands to create personal symbolic imagery, and to encourage others to subvert dominant narratives by telling their stories in hidden and/or overt ways.
“I gravitate towards sculpture because I feel like I get the most involved,” she said. “It’s like a body-to-body connection. I like materials that I can really work with. There are tales and legends about people being made from clay by god. I have a deep respect and bond with clay…To me, bronze has the most similar feeling to clay.”
Harrison recently started converting her sculptures of people from clay to bronze, which is an extensive process that requires patience and persistence. She said you should first have a location in mind of where you want the sculpture to be before making it. Then, you make the sculpture, cut out the body parts, and take them to a foundry to make a mold of all the parts. After the mold is ready, the wax can be put in. The refining process is the next step – taking all the pieces back, melting out the wax, and then putting the bronze in place before it’s welded back together.
“You have to pour it in different places so the air doesn’t get trapped,” Harrison said about the bronze placement in the sculpture.
Harrison spent a lot of time in her youth camping, a setting where she first discovered her love for art and creativity. Her mom was an exchange teacher in Japan; one of the things they did was go on tours to see different pottery.
“The pottery there is like a national art form,” Harrison said. “The people who make pottery are like national treasures.”
Although she had her first clay experience at a young age, she didn’t make her way back to the medium until she was in college. While attending Grinnell College in Iowa, Harrison rediscovered her passion for clay at a community studio. Harrison realized she needed more arts education so she went to Washington State University to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts, and later on, a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Nowadays, her work is shown nationally with recent work at Bainbridge Museum of Art.