Faces in the Arts: Patricia Sannit
Faces in the Arts is a blog series dedicated to highlighting the work of Artist Project Grant recipients. These grants have been known to springboard recipients into the next level of their careers as artists, whose business is researching, developing, marketing and delivering their creative product. Through their work with communities, in education and in partnership with local vendors, artists stimulate local economies and improve the quality of life across Arizona.
Patricia Sannit, Ceramic Artist
I am an artist who works primarily with clay. My work explores the visual languages and motifs that are transmitted from culture to culture, and how these motifs provide evidence of our species’ long history and common experiences with each other and on our Earth. My work is influenced by archaeology, geology, human history and the history of ceramics. Evidence and effects, positive and negative, of human habitation of our planet are my source material. I use a variety of clays to refer directly to the Earth’s crust. I want the clay to show evidence of manipulation and the natural processes that affect the material. I attempt to express a sense of history of culture and material, and to create work that sketches our shared humanity across cultures and through time. www.patriciasannit.com
Patricia is a 2010 recipient of the Arizona Artist Project Grant, for her project Citadel. She received the award the first time she submitted an application.
ACA: Where is the work currently showing, and for how long?
Patricia:Citadel is complete and is currently installed on the Quail Run Trail at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. It is scheduled to be there through 2011. Citadel was first exhibited at the Arizona State University Art Museum, Ceramic Research Center (CRC) along with a dozen or so other examples of my work. The installation at the CRC included a 20×6 foot aerial map of the Kurdish citadel Erbil on the floor and a number of excellent text panels.
ACA: How has the grant funding affected your project?
Patricia: Completing Citadel was a huge endeavor and the materials costs were high. The grant money gave me enough to assure me that I wouldn’t be destitute when I finished! It also was a kick-starter. And very much appreciated!
ACA: Have you received any public recognition for, or reactions to, your work?
Patricia: When the work was on exhibit at the CRC, I gave numerous talks about Citadel. The response was uniformly positive. People were quite moved by the work and became more interested in the original archeological site in Iraq that was my inspiration. In addition, the community of people that was created during the construction of Citadel was very important and was a focus of interest for people who came to see the final piece.
ACA: How do the formal and conceptual aspects of the project complement one another?
Patricia: Citadel reflects the layering and development of culture. During the construction of Citadel, we employed different brick making techniques that were my interpretation of contemporaneous techniques. Each layer of the piece refers, roughly, to the real stratigraphy of the site. The upper layers of the piece are far more complex and varied than the lowest “mud brick” layers.
ACA: What was the catalyst, or inspiration, for your project?
Patricia: In 2005, I read an article about an archeological site in the Kurdish region of Iraq called Erbil. The photo I saw included a 25 mile or so aerial view of the modern city of Erbil, with the ancient citadel of Erbil at the center. I was intrigued by the apparent exponential growth of the city and when I read how it had been continuously inhabited for 8,000 yrs, I realized the site embodied many of the ideas that compel me to work.
ACA: Are there other artists who serve as an inspiration to you and your work?
Patricia: I wouldn’t say that there are any contemporary artists who have been an inspiration, though I am always inspired by the work of anonymous carvers and weavers through the ages. I am interested in the work of Francis Alys, Carl Andre, Magdalena Abakanowicz, Arnold Zimmerman, Betty Woodman, Steve Heinemann and Isamu Noguchi.
ACA: In the development of your project, what challenges or surprises did you face?
Patricia: Sheer weight, heavy labor! But, I am so pleased with the piece. It exceeds my initial vision. However, equally compelling, was the wonderful group of volunteers who became very committed to the project and helped me see it though. We became a close community.
ACA: Did your project change in any unforeseen ways, from the original concept?
Patricia: The construction of the piece became a community project to my complete surprise. As to visually, I always work with the flow and allow my work to grow from the process. Thus, I was not surprised when my original vision changed somewhat during the process.
ACA: How do you feel your project works within, or perhaps challenges, your genre?
Patricia: This piece is indebted to the history of ceramics; the techniques we used are aligned with ceramic traditions. However, the piece is a contemporary sculpture not an historic artifact. I think it refers to a whole history of culture and tries to keep that movement going forward. Because of its weight, there are not many large scale ceramic installations (except architectural).
ACA: What have you learned while completing this project?
Patricia: I had been hoping to make a piece that was more idea based. I enjoyed the process and found it deeply satisfying. So much so, that I hope to apply this knowledge to future work. I learned that I enjoyed collaborating and working with a group of people toward a common goal. Previously, I didn’t think of myself as having a talent to motivate people. But, I attracted a devoted group to the project and kept us going through the hot summer, working outdoors! I truly am looking forward to the next large project that I can undertake.
ACA: Any tips for artists seeking funding/seeking space/planning to apply/looking for national funding resources/looking for collaborators/etc.?
Patricia: I need to learn more about applying for grants. It is a lot more time consuming than I had thought. When I started to look for venues to exhibit the piece, I sent proposals to two local museums. I also had a back-up plan in place. I show at a gallery in Scottsdale and could have used that venue if necessary. I got as much advice as I could from people connected to the local art world. Now that I am looking for other venues, I have called on a lot of people to help me. Everyone has gone out of their way to be helpful!! To get volunteers, I sent out an email to my regional mailing list, just inviting anyone interested to stop by. It worked!