Teri Frame is an assistant Professor of Ceramics at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with an MFA from Pennsylvania State. She has completed art residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Australian National University, and The Museum of Outdoor Arts to name just a few. Last Thursday she put on a performance at the Alexandre Hogue Gallery in Phillips Hall to celebrate the opening of a series of her work in the gallery.
The performance opened with Frame putting on a mask made of grey clay. She was seated at a desk facing the audience and had a mirror in front of her. She then began taking strips of clay and adding them to her mask, starting with the nose. She continued adding clay, working it into position, and smoothing it out. She was clearly trying to transform the mask into something else but was not yet certain what it was going to be.
The nose got longer and thinner and she began working on other features of the mask. Throughout the performance she seemed to lead the audience to think she was going one way only to change some small aspect and make the mask look completely different. At times it appears almost as a rabbit, or a fox, or a horse.
She seemed to finally settle on a dog with a long snout and floppy ears. She was beginning to add some finishing touches, smoothing areas and adding features, when something seemed to change. Up until this point her movements seemed graceful and controlled but very suddenly they became violent. She began slicing off large chunks of clay and reshaping what was left into something completely different. Very quickly the mask became more monstrous.
When she was finally done the mask was a beast, with a gaping jaw and large fangs. She looked at the final work in the mirror and, seemingly finished, took off the mask and let it smash into the table.
Ceramics is not often thought of as a performance art, but Frame is able to make the act of working with clay something to be seen. Both her stage presence and technical skill make her a perfect candidate combining for these usually separate mediums. There were a few hiccups with the merging of these two forms. Namely, at the end of the performance I felt like it had been rushed, like it hadn’t actually gotten to the place it was supposed to. Frame too seems a bit frustrated with the performance, although it was hard to tell where the actor ended and the artist began.
Clay is a medium that often requires a level of concentration and perfection that can take a large amount of time. Performance, on the other hand, is by definition time limited. I feel as if the project was a bit too large for its 45 minute length. I do not see this problem as stemming from a lack of skill, but from a clashing of the two mediums Frame combines. A video of the performance, along with other pieces of her work, will be on display at the Alexandre Hogue Gallery until October 27th. If you have any interest in ceramic or performance art it will definitely be intriguing.