Jean Hardy Solo Exhibition

On View: July 17 – August 29, 2021

Maine Crafts Association presents porcelain wall art pieces by Jean Hardy at the Center for Maine Craft.

Fields of Pixels

At the end of 2019, I became a caregiver for my elderly parents who began significant, and concurrent, declines in their health. Soon after that, Covid hit. The isolation and changes it brought thrust me further into a role of protection and maintaining a busy care schedule in-home to keep them out of nursing facilities.

My practice up to that point had been as a functional potter. The shows, tours and firings which I had been scheduled to participate in were all cancelled. With my new responsibilities in eldercare, I found I could neither make nor sell work. I felt these losses acutely as extreme vulnerability.

I had to ask myself, “what CAN I still do?”

I resolved myself to a creative exploration into a space I visited during my meditations – the biggest stress-buster I know. Using techniques and materials I was familiar and comfortable with, I developed a way to present an intensity of color which represents an inner and immersive experience, but stays on the wall as an object. I attempted to amplify the meditative experience into the daily realm.

In the time I did find to work, some weeks only an hour was available to spend in the studio, I pursued the bits of tasks within a practice that encompassed a varied array of techniques. I could do the porcelain parts for a few months, just focused on those discs in the same repetitive way I made pots. Other months were spent working with the metallics, or the painted and glazed surfaces.

The finished piece becomes a sample, a small souvenir that I bring back from there to here. They act as generative ignition systems; reminders of how a wellspring of resilience lives inside, even as outside appearances can seem overwhelming in the direness of burnout, exhaustion and the pointed sadness of being with others at the very ends of their lives.

The uniformity of the rows of pixel-discs were important for a sense of predictability and regulated experience of the intensity of both inner and outer realities. Gazing into the glow of the reflected color acts as a reminder of the power of energy and its fields of informational frequencies which refresh and reset my brainwaves, restoring wholeness and balance.

In this way I found I could continue some type of creative practice under the duress of extremely limited time and adverse circumstances, while at the same time serving my needs as a fatigued caregiver in isolation.

Finally, these pieces are a representation, and a celebration, of what can (still) happen during events which seemingly conspire to end everything as we know it. In choosing to let go of my old familiar habits, and not trying to pursue my practice in the same ways, I just had to let go. Otherwise, my levels of frustration and loss would have undoubtedly been an impediment to the need to carry on.

I was delighted to find that the choice to pivot towards something less familiar and comfortable, granted access to new ideas which came to the surface and flourished in my exploration.

My parents, Joan and Doug Hardy, both died this spring – not from Covid. This show is dedicated to their memories.

About the artist: 

A potter from the start, I grew up on the edge of the Raritan Formation, a geological formation in NJ associated with lots of naturally occurring earthenware clay. Digging clay and making objects from it was one of many childhood activities that took place outdoors. Studying pottery with many teachers and learning much on my own as well, I maintain a practice of making pottery that gets me through life. – Jean Hardy

The ceramic components of each piece have been fired in a kiln which offsets carbon emissions, running off grid-tied, rooftop solar-powered electricity.