Mary Del Bianco agreed to interview because I emailed her – possibly because I told her how much her nests caused me to pause and linger.
Mary works in clay (as do I) and I am always enchanted by someone executing something that’s been in the back of my creative mind but hasn’t made it forward. I love the technical skill of her nests, but I also love the idea of nests and home, and the pairs of wings she has on the wall behind – all images that call to my own creative muse at the moment, so I was delighted when she agreed to have a chat so that the public could get to know her and her work better.
Mary describes herself as an artist who has been making art all of her life, but one who has not shared her work for years, as a lot of her creative energy was taken up by teaching elementary and middle school art for the past 20 years. She has been working with clay for about 10 years, but only recently began to focus on using clay for sculpture.
She draws her inspiration from contemporary art, “like much of the work at ArtOMatic,” enjoys ancient Chinese and Japanese ceramic art, and likes to study the work of clay masters like those from the Song Dynasty. She is also inspired by seeing new ideas and the innovative use of materials.
At this, Mary’s first ArtOMatic, she is showing work that represents several years of experimenting. She says:
I started by making the wings when my father was dying of cancer. They are a symbol of transition and journey. It was very hard to watch him suffer. Making the
wings gave me time to pause and reflect about him.
After he died, I became fascinated with birds’ nests. I studied their structure and began making ceramic twigs. The wings and twigs are fired in communal wood fire kilns. To me, they are a form of kinetic art, because some of the component parts are not fixed, and I can arrange and re-arrange them as the works evolve.
When my friend Matt MacIntire told me about ArtOMatic, I wanted to display the wings and integrate some of them into nests. You can see that one of the nests has wings as part of the structure. It also has pieces of prayer cards from the funerals of my father and my grandfaters, as well as notes written to my father in Czech. It is true homage to a great man.
Like a real osprey’s nest, my ceramic piece also includes trash that was gathered on a beach along the Patuxent River. My dad loved nature and in particular the Patuxent. I think he would be happy with that nest because it brings attention to environmental issues and the health of the river and the bay.
When asked to elaborate a bit more on this work, Mary says that the nests seemed to make sense of the work she had been doing with the wings. “It was a natural progression. I think they complete the circle of life theme.” It is her hope that people can find peace when they look at the wings, especially if they have been through a difficult loss of someone they loved.
Mary works collaboratively within the group Burnt Earth and finds it extremely influential on her work. “We are always learning from each other. Several of us fire our work together so we are invested in successfully bringing mud/clay through the brutal firing process to make our art. I really appreciate their feedback.” The collaborative artists are Beth Pitcher, Matt MacIntire, Kirsty Little and Julie Zirlin (all also on the 9th floor). She also loves the work of Brittany Sims on the 2nd floor and Gary Irby and Melissa Burley on the 11th.
You can find Mary’s ArtOMatic space on the 9th floor, north side of the building, with a view of the Capitol and the Jeffrerson Memorial, “Truly,” she notes, “a lovely place for the nests to reside.” On June 3, from 3 – 5 she will be hosting a reception on the 9th floor, so if you’re around, do stop by and say “hi”!
You can see more of her work in the “Shape of Things” ceramics show at the Popcorn Gallery at Glen Echo in June this year, and find her at http://www.burntearth.net, and http://www.stratastudio.blogspot.com.