Briefly describe the work you do.
The focus and significance of my work lies in the state of the human condition, the delicacy and fragility of the human construct in an emotional and physical sense. My experience is that of being part of an extended family that has endured a history of cancer and high mortality rate. As I have become more aware of my family’s history with illness through the examination of my memories, I have become wary of the future and empathetic of the past. I often find myself attributing to others my own unease in relation to cancer. This projection of my anxieties onto others acts as cancer does in metastasis, spreading from one location to another. My work is an examination and reflection of the memories, emotions, and anxieties caused by my family’s history with cancer with an emphasis on the relationship between human biology and human emotion.
I have developed a process utilizing my knowledge of various casting methods and glaze chemistry to create forms made entirely glaze. The color and texture is appealing and repulsive at the same time. When viewed through a magnifying glass the surface resembles Scanning Electron Micrographs of cancer cells. The fragile and fleeting appearance of these pieces symbolizes the transient nature of human life. Projected onto life size, coil built figures, are a series of macro images of my casted work. The projections engulf and overwhelm the figures, as do my anxieties and fears for my health, the health of loved ones and cancer itself.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I was born and raised in a small town in Missouri. I received my BFA in Studio Art at the University of Central Missouri and shortly after attended graduate school in Lawrence, Kansas and received my MFA in ceramics. It is funny to look back on what might have led me to where I am today. As a young child I was always drawing or creating. I loved drawing portraits of others, which I feel fully, translates into the work I make today. As I grew older I became more and more drawn to the sciences. I desperately wanted to become a biologist or a doctor of some sort. Human biology and life science were my favorite subjects and I knew every single bone and muscle in the human body. In high school I fell in love with psychology and thought that was going to be my path. I began my college career as a psychology major and after a few changes became a studio art major. Although I am not a doctor today I still find my work has so much to do with human biology and psychology. My family’s history with illness is a huge conceptual influence in my work. Not until I had spoken with others about my family’s medical history had I known that the amount of death and illness had been perhaps abnormal. I had begun investigating my memories as well as the affect that these instances have had on me psychologically.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I have worked in both private studios and communal studios and I find both to have their advantages and disadvantages. In my private studio I was allowed to truly make a mess, close my door, and play my music as loud as I wanted. This is great for a certain amount of time but I need some sort of human contact to give myself a break and to be sane. The communal studio is great when is comes to having human contact and being able to ask for feedback on the spot, but you must always be conscious of others and your surroundings. I suppose being in a communal space forces me to clean up after myself, which is never a bad thing.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I feel that I have become a bit of a therapist for others. Because of the concepts I deal with in my work people often want to tell me their story. I absolutely love this aspect of my work. I am allowing myself to be vulnerable and express my fears and so it makes others examine how they might feel. Everyone has had an encounter with cancer, illness, and loss at some point in their life and for some reason viewers want to speak to me about their experiences. Perhaps they find it therapeutic. Whether they do or not it makes me feel better to know I am not alone.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I would love to be in the studio everyday. Unfortunately this is not possible at the moment. I do have entire days where I can set aside a large chunk of time to work, but mostly I just work whenever I can. I have never been a 9 to 5 person. My best working time is between Noon and 10 pm. That is when I find myself really wanting to do nothing but make work without any distraction.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
It has changed so much. I just finished graduate school less than two years ago. It was time to experiment and discover new ways to work. I began school working with the figure and dealing with a lot of the same conceptual ideas that I am now. At some point I realized I wasn’t ready to address these ideas yet so I began another body of work that was almost a way for me to ignore these issues. At one point I was growing grass on organic clay forms and making hints at the human form without replicating it. It wasn’t until my third year of graduate school that I had begun the kind of work I am making now. One of my thesis committee members even drew a diagram of how I had come full circle in my graduate career to make a point in a meeting!
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
My family obviously has a huge impact on the work I do. My husband is my rock. He balances me out and allows me to spend long hours in the studio with no complaints. My fellow art colleagues are my motivators. Seeing them do well only makes me work harder. Books such as “Autobiography of a Face” by Lucy Grealy and “The Anatomy of Hope: People Prevail in the Face of Illness” by Jarome Groopman have influenced my work greatly on speaking about the psychological effects of illness and loss. And the more fact based book “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee keeps me in check when speaking the more scientific aspects cancer and illness.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
Like I said before, I left high school wanting to be a psychology major. I think I could see myself somewhere in that field. Perhaps helping people who have experiences with great loss in their lives. I find the way the brain and human body work to be fascinating!
Jamie Bates Slone is a ceramic artist known for her figurative work in clay paired with with projected imagery as surface as well as her experimental work in the casting of ceramic glazes. Her most recent work addresses the fragility of the human spirit in the midst of illness and loss in relation to her family’s history with cancer. Jamie earned her MFA with honors in Ceramics at the University of Kansas in Spring of 2012 where she received the Professional Development Assistance Award. She earned her BFA in Studio Art with and emphasis in Ceramics in 2008 at the University of Central Missouri. Jamie is currently a Foundation Resident Artist at Red Star Studios in Kansas City, Missouri and adjunct faculty in ceramics at Park University in Parkville, Missouri. Jamie has exhibited work in galleries throughout the U.S. including the Spencer Art Museum in Lawrence, Kansas, Jacob Lawrence Gallery in Seattle, Washington, First Street Gallery in New York City, New York, and the St. Petersburg Clay Company in St. Petersburg, Florida. She most recently won first place at the Clay3 National Juried Exhibition juried by Kurt Weiser.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.