As a framework for considering non-dominant, expansive modes of celebration, kinship, adornment, and function, Hornbuckle’s evocation of “fae folk” acts as joyful embrace of irregularity, texture, natural landscapes, and the elements, while acting as a subtle rebuff of sterile production and consumerism.
In Gallery I, Goldfinch is pleased to present “What Cannot Be Said Will Be Wept,” a solo exhibition of new ceramic works by Dove Drury Hornbuckle. The exhibition is on view from Saturday, January 14th through Saturday, February 25th.
Evocative of natural formations like caves, mounds, burrows, and mountains, as well as architectural constructions like temples or towers, Hornbuckle’s new sculptures expand the artist’s somatic explorations of multiplicity, ritual, and selfhood. Through rhythmic mark-making, Hornbuckle’s hand-built forms demonstrate both the malleability and freedom of clay, along with the realities of its limitations and its relationships with chance, chemistry, and the elements—factors which Hornbuckle embraces rather than avoids, absorbing “faults” into the integrity of the pieces themselves.
Following a residency in Reykjavík, Iceland, in 2022, Hornbuckle’s work and practice reveled in the lore, mythologies, and anecdotal accounts of the otherworldly realm of faeries (“fae” or “Fey”) or “hidden people,” which are widely accepted among Icelandic people. Common Icelandic lore and tales involving these “hidden people” describe their alignment with the natural landscape of the country, as “eco-protectors” who defend unbuilt landscape and resist or undo development projects. For Hornbuckle, the spirit of “fae folk” serves as a touchstone for anti-conformist ideals around pleasure, being, gender, spirituality, and ritual. Considering, in Hornbuckle’s words, “what it means to be a faerie,” the artist’s practice and new body of work largely considers the “freedom of self-possession and agency, freedom of movement, and the ability to change without fear.”
In the exhibition, wall-based mosaics and small ceramic works depicting sprite-like figures evoke mystical totemic forms, charms, or early pagan alphabets. Similarly, a large-scale circular mosaic, comprised of a multitude of small glazed vessels, nods to discrete places in the landscape where minute creatures like insects, birds or even “hidden people,” might make their homes, such as small pools of water, tiny burrows in the ground, folds between the petals of a flower, or even decorative garden ornaments like bird baths and bug houses. This gentle nod to dwelling places or shelters for non-human creatures speaks more broadly to Hornbuckle’s interest in reframing dichotomies between utility and decoration, while considering the ways objects can take on functions that weren’t anticipated, often in organic, and even symbiotic, ways.
While their vessels engage the ancient lineage of clay objects back to prehistoric artifacts, Hornbuckle’s thick, layered use of glaze also acts as an uninhibited ornamentation of the forms—reminiscent of fashion or lavish costuming. Glazes might pool or over-drip, subject to temperature distribution in the kiln, and these moments of combination, overlap of color, and mottled surface quality serve, for Hornbuckle, as the mysterious and sensual pleasures of the medium. As a framework for considering non-dominant, expansive modes of celebration, kinship, adornment, and function, Hornbuckle’s evocation of “fae folk” acts as a joyful embrace of irregularity, texture, natural landscapes, and the elements, while acting as a subtle rebuff of sterile production and consumerism.
Dove Drury Hornbuckle is an interdisciplinary artist and educator living and working between Saugatuck, MI and Chicago, IL. Solo exhibitions have been held in Chicago, IL at Goldfinch Gallery, What Cannot Be Said Will Be Wept, 2023 and Roots & Culture, Earth, My Likeness, 2020. Past awards include a teaching fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center in 2020, and the LeRoy Neiman Fellowship from the Ox-Bow School of Art in 2018. Past teaching roles have been held as Adjunct Professor at Hope College, lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and instructor at the Ox-Bow School of Art & Artists’ Residency. They have served as the Ceramics Studio Manager at the Ox-Bow School of Art & Artists’ Residency since 2019.
A CONVERSATION BETWEEN DOVE DRURY HORNBUCKLE AND CURATORIAL DIRECTOR ELIZABETH LALLEY
Elizabeth Lalley: In this exhibition, a touchstone for many of these works is the idea of hidden worlds, realms of fairies and non-human entities. It feels right that clay should be used as a medium to explore these affinities and inquiries. There’s something that seems mysterious about clay, something very alive and a little beyond our control. I know that kilns can be full of heartbreak. How did your interest in these hidden worlds and “fae folk” begin and develop? How did your ceramic forms begin to hold these ideas and questions for you?
Dove Drury Hornbuckle: My life and art practice have always been integrated. Being an artist by intuition and intention has been the greatest gift to my life, I’ve been able to meet so many brilliant people in the pursuit of art.
Many years ago, I was living in NYC with a friend who first introduced me to the Radical Faeries. The Radical Faeries are a global community of queer people who regularly meet at specific sanctuaries to celebrate a matrix of spiritual, ecological and sensual values. They are something of a secretive society, however by contemporary standards they have a website that explains all of their core beliefs & where and when they commune.
The Radical Faeries were first cofounded by Harry Hay, an activist and labor advocate, and other queer people in the 1960s. They were originally founded as a reaction against the Mattachine Society, which was one of the first gay rights organizations in the United States in the early 1950s. The members of the Mattachine Society were against Communist values and sought integration into American society. Harry Hay and other original members of the Mattachine Society rejected this integration and sought a more progressive and anti-assimilationist community, not based in the mirroring of normative American heterosexual values, thus the Radical Faeries were founded and continue on today.
Throughout the different phases or locations of my life I have sought to find queer community – people and spaces that offered me alternate perspectives and agency over my life – a fuller spectrum of potentialities of what life could be, and how I could more authentically life through my values and ideas.
When I am at a sanctuary spending time with other Faeries, or in the middle of a dance floor of a queer club, or having some kind of cute quiet domestic moment eating dinner with queer friends as we gossip and share stories from our lives, I feel the most ‘real’, the most seen – I feel as though my life has meaning. I suppose it is a pursuit of community, away from the loneliness and fear that I felt so often, like a clinging shadowy phantom when I was younger.
Queer people are so good at celebrating our lives together because it is so common for us to know the opposite – desperate hiding, deep fear, repression and rejection from those who are our birth families – this is why we have ‘chosen families’ – to find, feel and share the love that we should have been given when we were younger.
There has recently been more of an integration of ideas between faeries, clay and the geological world when I was an artist in residence at SIM, based in Reykjavik, in February-March 2022.
In Iceland there is a native belief and mythology of Hidden People – Huldufólk – these are elves or spirits of the land that live amongst the stones and waterfalls and volcanoes and geologic phenomena. They often protect the land by destroying or tampering with human pursuits of industrial advancement into the landscape.
While I was in Iceland, I heard of many stories about the machinery on construction sites continuing to break down unexpectedly. Workers would try to fix their equipment without luck. But then a farmer or local Icelandic person would wander down from a nearby farm or home and tell them that the faeries communicated with them, and that the construction is annoying the faeries and if they move their equipment a few hundred yards it will all be fine, and they can continue with their construction. Sure enough they would move their equipment and the machines would start working again and the faeries would be pleased, and all would be well.
I love to think of the Hidden People as ecological anarchists, who protect the landscape and the extraordinary beauty of Iceland from invasive human industrial pursuits, whose wasteful technologies destroy and detract from the inherent richness of the earth. I feel that there is a parallel here between the Hidden People and the Radical Faeries – that they commune to reintegrate and uphold ecological values, and the spiritual intersections of nature worship.
EL: The forms you build often feel like they are straddling different ways of being read or used. A bowl-like form may contain many holes, so it implies functionality while complicating it. I think of many of these works as vessels, but also as caves, formations in the land, architectural structures, mounds. In the context of this show, I’m associating them with dwellings for things unseen or very minute—fae folk, but also insects or small creatures. Can you talk about your own reading of these forms?
DDH: I enjoy extremes - one can’t live in extremity all of the time - that would be chaotic - but to practice or embody healthy extremes gives balance and pleasure on the peripheral edges of life. I do not create work from a solely pragmatic axis - my work isn’t required by the legalities and bureaucracies of design-based work - fire hazards and such - and so I am more in the pursuit of freedoms - and so taking things to extremes is like practicing the fullness of freedoms - you get to taste all of the flavors.
I am interested in clay because of its ability to capture and mirror movement and intimate gesture. I think of Richard Serra’s Verb List from 1967 - that clay is a physical, somatic, action-based material. I do not make work to represent or describe objects, rather than to embody movement and to witness gesture that is created in the act - the act is the object.
The vessel is an object that belongs to all of humanity, that everyone experiences in one form or another - so to bring these improvisational, experimental and extreme actions into a relatable object makes the choreography make sense - it’s like watching dancers perform on a stage - there vessel is the structure that holds the improvisation - like a chord structure able to contain an improvised section of a song.
The breaking point of my work, the gnarled, jagged, staccato edge – it’s the antithesis to all of those pristine porcelain finely crafted thin walled teacups – all of the English porcelain with those camp classist cherubim made to be so finely and delicately handled in a controlled and polite manner.
I do not wish for my work to be polite – not intentionally gruesome however, the focus on the macabre can also have its own clichés – I just wish for it to show an honest movement – that what it is, is enough.
I was so struck by the landscape of Iceland when I was on residence at SIM in Reykjavik in the beginning of 2022 – the immediacy and immensity of the geological phenomena there – there was an extreme brutal honesty to the landscape – sort of raw and without fear of showing all of its power. Together with a friend we visited the cooled lava of a volcano along the southern coast of the island – the lava had this amazing hued coloration – almost reminded me of the effects from pit firings we do at Ox-Bow – these sort of sooty hues of greens, purples, grays, this kind of oil spill – something I didn’t expect – the lava, at one time, being more fluid, and then cooling, had these wrinkles, these stress folds and gravitational contours that were created from its movement – it was truly flesh-like, and reminded me so much of clay – at once more liquid, and then drying its contour, later being fired into a solid, capturing the gesture of the movement. Our human flesh – we are simply walking, thinking, breathing earth material. This rest is all concept.
When I dance and when I move, I feel so free and so happy – working in clay I feel I share a choreography with the clay – I work with the clay in fluid gestures and the clay then responds by breaking, warping, cracking, curving, flattening – it’s a call and response. I do not have formal dance experience with partner-style dancing, but when I dance with someone, either joyously or intimately or both – that there is a kind of energy movement that happens between us. It’s like how it is said that we eat with all of our senses – by scent and sight, as well, of course, with taste. We move and respond while dancing in the moment, with a specific amount of space, to a certain song, with the energy that the partner is also providing.
When I dance, I feel as though I am able to find this centralized feeling of energy in my body, and when I move it’s like I am able to channel and change the energy. I also think of other forms of bodywork that I have experienced – tai chi, massage, yoga, acupuncture – these all have lessons of moving energy around the body in order to reintegrate the body with wellness and healing.
I watched by mother and older sister attend ballet and dance classes when I was a child, desiring to attend them as well, to wear the same late-90s polyester sequined stage costumes, but I was too scared or had already known a subtle fear not to speak that queer desire into language – so I also feel that there is a reintegration of deep desires when I dance and when I work with clay. It is not about self-censorship or modesty; it is about the feeling of freedom and uninhibited joy within my body.
EL: You live and work at Ox-Bow Residency, in Saugatuck, Michigan, which is such a specific environment for making and living. The old cabins, buildings, and spaces for making there, and the natural, woody environment surrounding it—plus the lake that borders it—evokes a feeling of the inside and outside being very flexible and interchangeable, overlapped in special ways. There are artworks, both finished and in progress, situated outside in the landscape in ways that are often so subtle, I wasn’t able to tell if I was looking at a sculpture or a strange tree stump, or both. How has this environment, one that exist so heavily on being outdoors, influenced your practice?
In the same way that Ox-Bow encourages a type of creative practice where studios and making spaces exist beyond traditional studio walls, I’ve encountered your own work displayed outdoors, sometimes in such natural, unassuming ways as to appear they’ve always existed there—like they’ve grown out of the earth around them. Spiders have woven webs in your vessels; acorns and pinecones have become embedded in them, along with dirt and twigs. For me, witnessing them outside in the elements drove home certain fantasies and imaginings of things like fae folk or hidden peoples, as though these forms and vessels took on functions beyond those we could have anticipated. What does it mean for you to situate your work both in- and outdoors? Have the elements been instructive or surprising to you, in terms of showing you knew things about the medium of clay?
DDH: There is an ongoing play between artwork and its lifespan in the landscape at Ox-Bow. Nature always wins, and her lifespan is eternal. Having lived on campus full time since the beginning of the Pandemic, I have been much more aware of the nuances and subtleties of nature, the kind of humorous and cheeky play between art-object and the natural processions of seasons that happen around them. I have witnessed works break and crack open, become homes for animals, safely house insects underneath sculptures; I once witnessed a ceramic object I made become a temporarily shelter for a frog to nap in – others became places where birds built their nests. Everything we can do it to the natural environment here is also absorbed within and becomes a plaything to nature – it becomes a toy or a tool for its continual survival.
I’m not sure if there is a linear and clear way to describe how my work is directly integrated with the witnessing of nature here at Ox-Bow, but I feel when I make my work and then place it outdoors, under sassafras trees, that there is some kind of inherent connection – some sort of parallel. For me, art making is at times a kind of excavation and revealing of subconscious decisions, desires and internalized truths. I do not wish to make work that have easy parallel references, nor do I desire to describe in detail or to mimic forms in nature – rather I think about the atmospheric qualities of what I witness in nature here at Ox-Bow, it’s an all poetic integration:
Witnessing the arrival of daffodils as a first dramatic burst of color from under late Spring snow,
or walking into a crisp drop of temperature by the foggy lagoon, hearing the call of coyotes, or the staccato rhythm of woodpeckers outside of the studio, the silent flight and spread of large wings of barred owls – their howling mating call to one another that erupts other peripheral sounds at night – raccoons in the trash bins after a wild party, or the large clusters of webs from orb weaver spiders that cloud together around florescent lights – the slight band of gold on the cocoons of butterflies as the transform in situ in late summer – the snorting and stomping of territorial deer as I cross their paths along the Tallmadge woods.
EL: You’ve spoken a bit about your interest in ideas of “kitsch”: in what is deemed so and why, and in the unstable and often false hierarchies these types of value terms create. There is a decorative and kitsch element that you have mentioned embracing in your work—even in terms of garden adornment that is often seen as “cheesy” and “non-serious,” but is perhaps attempting to create a space of mystery or engagement that we shouldn’t so easily dismiss. Can you talk a bit about how you consider these terms and ideas—decoration, adornment, kitsch—in your ceramic works? How are you re-considering notions of value or “seriousness” within them?
DDH: A few years ago, while I was living in NYC, I was working intimately with an acupuncturist who is a queer man with a very disciplined spiritual practice – he became a mentor and a mirror for me at a time when I needed guidance. He once told me about a shamanistic belief – that wherein your dream if there is a predator or assailant who is about to attack you – that you allow this antagonist to attack you, so that you may absorb its power. It’s a way of integrating and utilizing ‘negative’ energy to empower yourself.
I think about this belief in terms of calling myself a faerie, as someone who is an artist interested in extreme aesthetics, and the ritual of bodily adornment within a historically queer context. You have to have a sense of humor about it. If you cover your beard in glitter and call yourself Dove, then you should be able to laugh at yourself. Laughing at oneself is a tactic for subversive lightness - in a sense it’s taking the power back from being humiliated, ashamed, meant to feel weak and belittled for the way I choose to live my life, how I choose to dress and beautify myself.