1st Place recipient

Brie Ruais, portrait

Brie Ruais

My work began ten years ago in an endurance and process based approach. I work with the equivalent of my body weight in clay, and my body as the only tool, to create a situation where I am not in complete control: the material pushes back, resists, challenges, and responds to my actions. I kick, push, scrape, spread, rake, and pull the earthy material into abstract, organic forms that record every impression and gesture. The pieces are abstract, results of a language of movement I’ve developed through intuition and metaphor. The performative movements are carried out so quickly that the work is infused with the energy of their making. They are typically made on the ground, and the glaze is added in an equally expressionistic and movement driven process: dripped, poured, and scattered. The pieces are divided up into sections, fired, and come together again on the wall. The fundamentals started here, with a relationship to material that was forged through a shared immersive physicality and relationship to space. Since then it has evolved through various relationships: my physical relationship to the material, my relationship to my environment, and the work’s relationship to mapping experience.

Visiting and making work in the desert is crucial to my creative life. I have visited and photographed sites across the Southwest including the rose colored Great Salt Lake, mining towns that boomed and busted, voluptuous white sand dunes, and military testing sites. I use these photos later in the studio as references for color, texture, scale, fragility, vulnerability, and exploitation of the land.

“Scraped Through” is a red clay piece which follows a performative action I have been using for years: “Spreading Out from Center”. I start with a mound of clay, pile myself on top of it, and start pushing the clay outward from this central position, rotating as I spread, spreading outward to arm’s reach. The resulting form is circular and sunburst-like. It is a dark red color; knuckle and fist marks claw and scrape at the surface of the clay, it’s edges are thin and falling apart, it is stretched to it’s limits. It has a raw, desperate, vulnerable feeling; a body stripped bare, torn open.

My work is inspired by Ana Mendieta, Agnes Martin, and Michelle Stuart; all artists whose work is in deep relation to material, the land, and the poetics of being alive. Clay has the unique ability to address conceptions of the internal body and the body of the earth. My practice relies on the ecofeminist proposition that the land (clay) and the human body share similar vulnerabilities and ways of being affected, marked, and colonized. My work is made on the wavering threshold of a body navigating its own movement through time and reimagining a relationship with the non-human and human world that is based on reciprocity.