Clay is a philosophical medium. The human hand is the primary instrument of control and gentle manipulation, unlike the brush for the painter or the pencil for the illustrator. Direct contact of supple fingertips to malleable mud creates a connection between artist and his or her element, allowing each to respond and talk back to each minute stimulus. And no one understands this profound phenomenon better than Paulus Berensohn.
In a moment during a documentary centered around his work called To Spring from the Hand, Paulus remarks on clay and its characteristics that illustrate, in particular, a simple lesson for children to be learned at an early age. “Anything they touch is touching them.” This six word sentence not only facilitates an awareness of people occupying the same environment, but also for the interconnectedness to everything they come into contact with. In this way, Paulus makes it clear our responsibility as children of the earth to nurture it. We have sprung forth from the earth, so we should take great care to nourish it in return.
It is also funny to reflect on how two very pliable forces, such as the hand and clay, influence each other in such a way. Think of a wave crashing into sand ashore (as cheesy as that may sound). With enough force behind it, the salty, sea water bores into the dense collection of small grains, and pushes them away and into each other, only to also be kicked up into peaks bordering the crater created and lifted into the current upon its retreat into the vastness. Two malleable substances mingling to leave their mark on their respective other.
We are lucky enough here at Marywood to have had the opportunity to hold an exhibition of work done by Paulus and his contemporary M.C. Richards in the Suraci Gallery. It is a great snapshot of the intensely spiritual work that these artists have realized throughout their experience as artists, specifically during their time on the Endless Mountains Farm. Their work has the ability to dramatically change the way a professional artist, let alone an aspiring one, approaches his or her process, and ignite the side of their artistry focused on, in the words of Paulus, “making a life, not a living.”
What concepts! Here’s a small compilation of clips from the film, but just rent the whole thing… really. If you have any thoughts on Paulus’ philosophy, clay as an adaptable material, or suggestions for further exploration, please leave them in the comments, and happy meditating.
Featured image courtesy https://neiltlawrence.files.wordpress.com