My hands have always been guided by a powerful quest to interpret and reconfigure reality. The arts were an important outlet for expression since I can recall. Pushing the boundaries while exploring traditional media during my formal education uncovered an enduring fascination for quirky personalities. Growing up with a mentally ill sibling I came to realize the arts would be absolutely essential for my own emotional health. The mind/body connection cannot be refuted: visualization techniques allowed my escape into my imaginary world when facing surreal odds.

My passions included playing flute, singing, dance, and creative writing. Within the visual arts field, my creations have ranged from wood, clay sculpture, painting, printmaking, photography and jewelry design. While sculpting my ceramic figures, the subconscious and intuition share the role of revealing life's joys and challenges. Each vision seems to require a different medium or mixed media which I've recently added collaged clay, glass, metal, stones with other found objects.

Focusing on clay sculpting for the past six years came about in an unexpected way: When my child was diagnosed with a rare disease she endured many hospitalizations requiring endless hours of painful procedures. Being the primary caregiver, I sought the most forgiving medium for her to focus her energy on: clay. Malleable, soft, and great for pounding out frustrations, she bloomed. And while her disease remains, her friends call her "Sunshine." Her physicians also attribute the ongoing art therapy to her incredibly optimistic outlook.

Creating and teaching art are the perfect combination of my enduring love for people. By sharing what I've learned and honestly expressing a diverse range of emotions I hope to show others struggling that there is a healthy way to cope. After years of working to master techniques I'm happy to "say what I mean" more clearly. Although I worked my way through college to obtain a teaching degree, I believe learning gleaned informally from reading books at the library and trial-and-error methods served my purposes as well.

As an abuse survivor the creative process literally saved my life. Being able to speak through my clay about society's violence, natural disasters, mental illness, and interpersonal relationships helps me cope when the pain is unbearable. LIFE TRACKS is one example of a woman's struggle to overcome a painful history. The tracks show how she progresses and regresses throughout her healing. The butterfly represents freedom from abuse.

All of my art is an evolving narration of interactions within our society. The social implications stem from my personal experiences but become universal as each viewer carries a history within. Often I've questioned whether creating works which often are not considered "beautiful" but instead frankly show the dark side of life are valuable. Then I began receiving emails from abuse survivors who expressed their gratitude for creating an open forum. Once, a woman said my work felt as if it wrapped around her like a warm quilt. . . At that point, I knew my life's work served a purpose. Capturing honest emotions in clay furthers an understanding of what it means to be human.

KERRY SHEA, Clay By Shea, Oregon, WI 53575 E: claybyshea@msn.com

Gardening passion translated to oil painting on display at Anderson Art Center.
"Soul sisters" in my NYC exhibit
"Visible in the Invisible."
Solo exhibit at Anderson Art Center.
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