According to Ray Chen, a work of art has no inherent shape of its own. He views the process of art making as a series of “networks and flows, connections and reconnections that are always forming and reforming, and can grow and enrich our lives.” Over the past few years, Chen has created a series of visceral ceramic sculptures that examine his relationship with his mother and explore how the values of Eastern culture have formed the person he is today.
Chen has a BFA in Ceramics from Ohio University, and an MFA from The School for American Crafts at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He also earned a degree in voice and piano in Taiwan. After teaching at universities in the Midwest and Northeastern U.S., Chen is currently the Director of the Fine Arts Department at the New England Institute of Education in Falmouth, Maine. He exhibits his work on a national and international level and is a board member of the International Shino Symposium in Beijing.
Chen’s recent series of abstract sculptures addresses the timeless connection between mother and child and explores his cultural roots on metaphorical and personal terms. In addition to being a process of self-discovery, the series is an homage to a beloved parent he lost in 2003.
“My mother, Cheng Wah Kuo, shaped my artistic life through Western music training and Japanese flower arrangement-Ikebana. When she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and later departed this world in 2003, she had groomed her only son to become an artist. The “Mother and Child” series express the timelessness of maternal love and reveal the universal connection, dialogue and vision of my own relationship with my mother. Eastern culture and my family education have shaped my (early) life… to be humble, be polite, and be patient, preserve harmony but to be sensitive. I have been learning and growing to become who I am through experiencing the process of time and culture, and history and values.”
Using natural forms to allude to a spiritual realm, Chen creates delicate works of earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware that are more solid than they initially appear. Their textured surfaces, sinewy appendages, and muted colors evoke fallen leaves, fragments of a shell, a gnarled tree trunk, fossilized bone, and rust. With their fluid extensions, they seem to be moving through time and space. His goal is to expose the “symbolic, philosophical and aesthetic force that extends and reaches beyond the boundaries of artistic expression.” Navigating the intersections between form and negative space, Chen’s meditative series is a moving tribute to the person who gave him breath, and encouraged him to find his own shape.
Table of Contents
Ray Chen — Artist Statement
Mother and Child – Henry Moore says “sculpture must have life in it. Creating a vitality and life within a form, gives it meaning and primitive power infused with humanist content.” Conceptually, “Mother and Child” moves from tradition to contemporary, from realistic emotional expression to abstract presentation, from East to West. For the last several years, I have addressed in my work the central relationship between my mother and myself. Eastern culture and my family education have shaped my (early) life… to be humble, be polite, and be patient, preserve harmony but to be sensitive. I have been learning and growing to become who I am through experiencing the process of time and culture, and history and values. “Mother and Child is a connection between my mother and me over space and distance. It is a measurement in feelings through my own personal experience, presenting movement, energy, love, relation, honesty, and integrity.
The energy radiates from the point where the pieces touch. Feelings toward my mother and her devastating illness mesh into one. Negative space and lines are drawn between internal and external emotions. In my sculptures, the exploration of form, space and lines, have become an outer language to embody my inner feelings. The composition of gestural abstract forms is also affected strongly by the spaces between forms. The objective is to compose a portrait that is charged with rich emotional and spiritual vision. The relationship between mother and child is universal. Clay and fire transcend the value of humility and express the texture of emotions. Mother and Child is a timeless statement of maternal love.
Ray Chen – Grant Submission Works
Ray Chen – Artist Bio
Ray Chen received his Master of Fine Arts in 1997 from The School for American Crafts, majoring in Ceramics and Ceramics Sculpture at Rochester Institute of Technology, NY, and a BFA in Ceramics, from Ohio University. His educational background includes both ceramics sculpture and music. He also graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree in voice, and minor in piano in Taiwan National Educational University, Taipei, Taiwan. His primary professional ceramics training both as a professional functional potter and designer, as well as, contemporary sculptor at the Chian Zhan Ceramic Arts Center in Taipei, Taiwan and moved to the United States in 1991 to pursue more contemporary issues in his ceramic work.
Chen was an Associate Professor at the University of Southern Maine and Assistant Professor at Indiana State University as the head of the Ceramics Departments. He was also the Executive Director at the Halcyon Art Gallery/Swope Art Museum in TerreHaute, Indiana. Currently, he serves as the Director of Fine Arts Department at the New England Institute of Education, USA. Ray Chen is a member of International Academy of Ceramics, and serves as an advisory board member of International Shino Symposium, Beijing, China. He has conducted numerous regional, national and International Ceramics Symposiums, as well as juried numerous regional, national and international ceramic exhibitions.
Chen’s ceramic works have been exhibiting both nationally and internationally with numerous reviews and publications. He has been invited to participate in many exhibitions and traveling lecturing in Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Finland, Germany, Guam, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, and North America.
Ray Chen on the Web And Social Media
Here is where to find out more about Ray on the web and social media:
About the Artist of the Day Series
All artworks have been published with permission of the artist. Our "Artist of the Day" series is a regular feature highlighting artworks from the 100's of grant applications we receive. The "Not Real Art Grant" is an annual award designed to empower the careers of contemporary artists, and this is one way we honor all entries we receive. Find out more about the grant program here.