Posted by Amanda Barr
Adam Shiverdecker’s newest work, a solo exhibit at Greenwich House Pottery’s Jane Hartsook Gallery titled “On a Grecian Urn” opened July 10 and runs through August 7, 2014. You can find him online at www.adamshiverdecker.com
At first glance, even through slides, Adam Shiverdecker’s work is imposing. Evoking long-submerged, hulking and rusted war machines lifted from the ocean floor, his wire and clay sculptures are powerful reminders of the inevitability of decay.
An ardent scholar of history myself, and the granddaughter of Quaker war-protesters, Adam’s work decomposing these enormous vessels of death and destruction resonated particularly strongly with my ethos. He refers to himself as a “committed pacifist” who is yet drawn to these artifacts of power and the material domination of the modern world.
In his 2014 Emerging Artists lecture and slideshow, “Fracture: Clay Under Pressure,” Adam opened with an enduring
image of modern culture: the 1986 explosion of the Challenger space shuttle. For those of us who were watching the launch live, it is an unforgettable moment in history; so many dreams shattered, lives lost, the lofty promises of technological advances falling to the ground as ash. In his achingly beautiful tribute to the doomed shuttle, Silent Climbs Me (2009), Adam begins by using high-temperature nichrome wire to form the structure which he then wraps in earthenware clay. The ceramic material’s natural properties then work to his advantage, as it is heated to high temperatures in both bisque and glaze firings, causing the clay to wither and crack along the armature. The resulting ghost-like structure is evocative of the fragility and ultimate tragic destruction of the highly engineered spaceship, which broke apart due to the failure of an O-ring seal.
Further references for Adam’s work include the 1937 crash of the Hindenburg, whose burning metal frame can be seen quite clearly reflected in Adam’s wire-and-worn-clay structures. His technique of allowing the clay’s own shortcomings to determine the outcome gives the work a natural sense of decay and antiquity, as if each piece truly were the wreckage of some long-lost vessel discovered. In “The Banquet of Leviathan,” (2009-2013), multiple vessels float from the ceiling among distressed Grecian urns, and one feels as if perhaps you have stumbled into a hidden niche of the ocean’s floor housing these relics of times past, worn by time and the rusting current.
“My work imagines what would happen if the entire military arsenal were simply pushed into the ocean. I’m a committed pacifist, but I am also drawn to the sleekness, the power, and the materiality of machines of war. My work attempts to represent my ambivalence to icons of military might by taking the forms of fighter jets, submarines and drones and denaturing their surfaces. By reforming weapons out of wire, I reference both the practice of children’s war games and modeling, as well as everyday forms of construction like fence-building. I then coat these structures in irregular amounts of clay, allowing for an arbitrary amount of decay. It is this fantasy of decay – of a culture that could regard weapons of war as follies, as disintegrating monuments to an earlier era – which my work tries to trigger.
I also apply this logic to historical forms, specifically Greek ceramic vessels. I’m interested in these Greek vessels because of the way they represent a culture that venerates war and conflict, as this seems to anticipate elements of our own bellicose culture.”—Adam Shiverdecker
Adam Shiverdecker is the Studio & Fabrications Manager of Greenwich House Pottery. Prior to accepting this position he was the Assistant Professor of 3D Interdisciplinary Art/Ceramics at The University of Toledo. Before assuming his role at Toledo, he was the Artist-In-Residence in the ceramics program and adjunct faculty at Tyler School of Art and a two-time summer resident artist at The Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana (2009, 2011). Adam was named an emerging artist by Ceramics Monthly and was the Myhre Scholar at The Archie Bray Foundation. Before pursuing his MFA at the University of South Carolina (2008), Adam graduated from the University of Toledo with a Bachelor of Education in Visual Arts (2005).