Biography: Dawn Renee received her B.F.A from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1994, and has been working almost exclusively as a raku ceramic sculptor for over 25 years. Her work has always explored how smaller constituent forms become integral to something larger; how light and shadow caught and refracted by the individual components create movement within, and give form to, the larger integral work.
She counts among her artistic influences the abstract expressionism of Louise Nevelson’s monochromatic wooden compositions, and the post-minimalist sculptures of Eva Hesse.
Dawn’s earlier work tended to focus on surface and texture, with the constituent forms working within the constraints of shallower dimensions. After learning the technique of “naked raku” from Wally Asselberghs, she found herself thinking about forms in greater dimensions: in curves and swells that rise break from the surface while articulating the flow of the larger whole. Through a great deal of trial and error she adapted the glazing recipes she learned from Asselberghs to use locally available ingredients, and developed her own technique for integrating naked raku with traditional raku, becoming one of perhaps a dozen artists in the world currently using both techniques simultaneously in individual pieces. The resultant play of absorption and refraction—of warm bare surfaces curling against and through shimmers of light and color—give her sculptures a quality that is at once grounded and atmospheric. Though beautiful even in stasis, her work cannot be fully appreciated until you have seen it displayed where the lighting shifts over time.
Dawn’s sculptures have been displayed in numerous venues such as the Coda Galleries in Park City, Utah, and Palm Desert, California, and most recently in the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum’s 34th Annual Contemporary Craft Exhibit. Her work has been commissioned by several companies such as Elizabeth Arden Red Door and Maestro’s Ocean Club, and by private collectors that include film producer Kiki Goshay and retired news anchor and journalist Charles Gibson.
Dawn Renee currently resides in Tucson, Arizona. When she is not working in her studio, she teaches art to a new generation of artists at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind, where she developed the prototype for the Paint Pot Palette: a Braille palette that can easily be changed to allow blind artists to choose colors for glazing.
written by: J. Ckristafer Baker
Artist Statement: My grandfather was a carpenter and his passion was repairing antique clocks. Much of my childhood was spent by his side watching him work on the clocks in his large basement workshop. The ceiling was a sea of Mason jars with the lids nailed into the beams; the natural light shining through the high basement windows glint off the glass and the metal parts they contained, and to me, it looked like a wonderful, ever changing sculpture.
My grandfather would reach up and unscrew jar after jar, placing small weights and various movements on the table and with specialized tools he would begin to put them together within the workings of the clock. I was amazed at how many of these little pieces fit so intricately together to create the simple movement of the hands and pendulum, all the while the space was filled with the rhythmic sounds of dozens of these clocks pendulums lobbing back and forth in synch with the ticking of the hands on each face. These vivid memories are intertwined in my work.
My raku ceramic sculpture is created from many pieces and each has a relationship to the other in order to complete the whole. Raku can be broken down into it’s own components; the elements, earth, fire, water, and air and each are considered for their function, like the parts of the clock, they must work together. In working with bare surface techniques combined with raku, I attempt to achieve an atmospheric quality, which is a balance of the reflection and absorption of light.
Ancestry is my most recent series and it is an exploration into my heritage. The Orkney Isles off of Scotland have been home to my father’s family for centuries. The isles have served those that have lived off the land and the sea, both presenting challenges. Weight of the Wind, one of the sculptures in this series, was inspired by the assemblages seen off of the north face of farmhouse roofs on the Orkneys, as the winds off the North Sea never cease and cause roofs to break way to these winds; ropes run over the roof and are weighted down with rocks, buoys filled with sand and other heavy objects. The Orkneys are home to many artists and they will tell you that they love the light and that it is different there then anywhere else. That light and the elements that play out in extreme are an inspiration to my work within this series.
“In the course of a single day you can see, in that immensity of sky, the dance of sun, cloud, sea-mist, thunder, rain.” George Mackay Brown, Orkney Poet.
Process: I begin working with a coarse clay body which I manipulate by rolling, hand-building or throwing on the wheel. Working from sketches, the many pieces that will become the sum sculpture are created. Often botanical specimens are sought out to become part of what I create and at times are left to burn out in the fire. Using various application techniques, the work is glazed. Raku firing techniques are unique, as the work is not initially bisque fired, only fired once and in many cases, serving as both bisque and glaze fire. The kiln is loaded and brought to a temperature on average of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, it is then opened and red-hot work is removed with tongs. The pieces are placed into reduction bins with sawdust, paper or other combustible materials and allowed to burn for a bit, and then the bins are closed airtight, allowing the work to go through the reduction process. This process allows the glazes to reach all the colors within their spectrum as the unglazed body absorbs the carbon thus creating the Raku signature.
Profile: Born in Hammond, Indiana, 1964. Professional Raku ceramic artist since 1998.
Education: The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, IL BFA 1994
Representation: Contents Interiors, Tucson, AZ 2014 – Present The MN Collection, Stucson, AZ 2013 – Present Niemann Hayden Fine Art, Scottsdale, AZ 2000 – 2011 Coda Gallery, Palm Desert, CA 2007 – Present Obsidian Gallery, Tucson, AZ 2001 – 2006 Coda Gallery, Park City, UT 2008 – Present Studio E Gallery, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 2009 – Present Seven-O-Seven Gallery, Santa Fe, NM 2007 – 2009 La Jolla Contemporary Fine Art, La Jolla, CA 2008 – 2009 Haro Gallery, Los Angeles, CA 2009 – 2010 Virginia Breier Gallery, San Francisco, CA 2001 – 2003
Commissions: Elizabeth Arden Red Door, WigWam Resort, Litchfield, AZ Scottsdale Conference Resort, Scottsdale, AZ Seville Country Club, Queen Creek, AZ Robson Ranch, Casa Grande, AZ Gainey @ DC Ranch, Scottsdale, AZ Banner Estrella Hospital, Glendale, AZ Maestro’s Ocean Club, Scottsdale, AZ Aviano Community Center, Scottsdale, AZ Private Residences across the country
Museum Exhibits: Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum 34th Annual Contemporary Crafts Exhibition 2012 Mesa, AZ (Juror: Associate Curator Museum of Art & Design, MAD, NYC) Tohono Chul Museum Please Touch Again 2009, Tucson, AZ Tohono Chul Museum Please Touch 1998, Tucson, AZ
Curatorial & Lectures: Juror: Pima Community College Annual Exhibition 2001 Lecture: Raku & the Japanese Tea Ceremony 2000, Pima Community College, Tucson, AZ Director of monthly exhibitions: Industry – A Gallery 2000-01, Tucson, AZ