Hello Atelier 020

Shalene Valenzuela

November 23, 2017

Like pop art icons Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, ceramicist Shalene Valenzuela transforms mass-produced images and objects into art.

Hello Atelier 020

Shalene Valenzuela

It is a dangerous proposition to let Jonathan and me loose in a ceramic gallery. When surrounded by ceramics our willpower melts away, and we almost always walk away with just another little trinket for our home. Last spring we were walking in the danger zone that is the Belger Crane Yard, when I spotted a full size ceramic dress form, painted from top to toe with images of retro-styled women, all of whom were in the process of sewing. I mean, ceramics and sewing? That dress form was totally made for me, but alas, I don’t have one iota of space for a full size ceramic dress form, so I had to pass it by.

Instead, I was thrilled to find out that the artist, Shalene Valenzuela would be traveling to Kansas City for the opening of her gallery show the following fall. So, we waited. And waited. And finally, on a warm autumn day, we met Shalene at the Belger Arts Center near downtown Kansas City. Wandering through a whole gallery of her work, I was struck by the expressions of the women. Trapped forever inside a tool of “woman’s work”, they glance suspiciously out at the viewers who have placed them in their confining worlds.

Like pop art icons Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, Shalene transforms mass-produced images and objects into art. Recreating household items such as rolling pins and telephones out of clay mutates them from a comforting everyday object to a hollow form, filling the viewer with uncertainty as they realize the object isn’t what it seems. The graphic, retro women that cover the domiciliary items are forever trapped in a world of idealized femininity. Listen in as we talk to Shalene about creating art in the round, the magical Montana ceramics community and the ever present fear of a creative block.

  • Belger Arts Center: The Kansas City gallery where we caught Shalene’s show and interviewed her in the secret upstairs office. Note, the show is up through December 16, 2017 – if you are in the area, go see it!
  • Richard Shaw: The professor who opened Shalene’s eyes to the possibilities of working in clay.
  • The West Bottoms: While in Kansas City, Shalene visited the West Bottoms antique district on a mission to find more objects for her art.
  • The Clay Studio of Missoula: Shalene serves as the executive director of this non-profit ceramics studio.

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