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Nature and nurture: Stacy Jo Scott at Holding Contemporary

Stacy Jo Scott's work in "Lo, A Vase in the Dark" explores the potential for technology to help us understand past, present, and future selves.



The beads of sweat that had been dripping down the curve of my spine start to cool in the gallery’s air conditioning. June’s unexpected and unrelenting sunshine filters through Holding Contemporary’s transparent walls, The ultraviolet rays cast spotlights on two large ceramic sculptures, Reflection and Mirror and Moon, 2021 and But the Soul is Light, 2021.

Installation view of Lo, A Vase in the Dark at Holding Contemporary. Photo credit: Mario Gallucci

Stacy Jo Scott’s work precipitates my pareidolia, the human tendency to see a face or other meaningful image in a random pattern. In this case, I perceive not a face but a human body. After having to isolate myself for over a year, I can understand why my psyche is reaching towards anything that looks vaguely human to interact with. I know that my previous perception of time changed during the pandemic, but I didn’t consider its impact on my perception of the physical world and lack of human interaction. 

But the Soul is Light, 2021 is a ceramic sculpture that is bust-like in form, the head at the top is drenched in a mixture of colorful glazes that swirl and coalesce into a marbled pattern. Sections bubble and drip, their movement suspended in the flux and gravity at the time of firing. My eyes beg me to get closer, to view all the intricate details of the glazes that seem one and many simultaneously. Colors twist together, earthy colors that seem extracted from groundswell – orches, soil, and sands – alongside uncommon and extraordinary purples and teals that seem inexplicably natural in combination with the earthbound neutrals. 

Stacy Jo Scott, But the Soul is Light (2021). Ceramic with glaze. 32.9 x 13.3 x 11.9 inches. Photo credit: Mario Gallucci

This exhibition conjures thoughts relating dissociation and reassociation, the idea of our ghost selves, and the history that quite literally lives within us passed through generations. The work also flirts with concepts relating to AI, how we can modify our DNA, and possibly now lengthen our telomeres to avoid aging. Scott uses new technologies, CNC and 3D printing, to create and conceptualize work alongside the very manual and analog practice of creating sculpture from clay. The juxtaposition begs the question: How do humanity and technology intersect in relation to who we are instead of what technology can do for us? 

Stacy Jo Scott, Reflection and Mirror and Moon (2021). Ceramic with glaze. 20.6 x 21.9 x 23.11 inches. Photo credit: Mario Gallucci

Scott’s work “revolves around imaging the ephemeral body and speculating on queer lineages and futurities.” This investigation manifests itself into Scott’s work via embodiment; she uses digital processes (3d printing and CNC) to create the basis for her ceramic sculptures. Gallery Assistant Tai Carpenter elaborated on this for me explaining that Scott’s process typically involves an initial stage in which she explores her potential sculptures using generative software tools. The tools give her the ability to use her own body, lineage and historical figurative sculptures to create 3D renderings that she then uses as a point of departure to create her physical sculptures. 

Stacy Jo Scott, Tenders Scans 4 (2021). Archival print, Edition of 5, 24 x 18 inches. Photo credit: Mario Gallucci.

Evidence of this process can be seen in the archival prints in the back of the gallery; four prints all titled Tender Scans which look like 3D scans of long lost relics from archaeological sites. It’s a completely different medium than the ceramic sculptural work but the prints offer a glimpse into the moments of creation that Scott brings to her ceramics and preserved a moment in time. 


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I imagine Scott’s work in this show as a personal archeological site — her ceramic sculptures are the relics, and the archival prints are the photographs that archive these finds. However, in the case of Scott’s work they are closely intertwined. Both sculpture and prints memorialize her own personal history that is at once inherited and generated. Scott’s work seems to play with the idea of creating our own history, especially as a queer artist and what that means to their present, past and future selves, all at once.

Lo, A Vase in the Dark is on view at Holding Contemporary through June 24th (916 NW Flanders Street, open Fridays and Saturdays from 12-5).

Ashley Gifford is a photographer, writer, and curator based in Portland, Oregon originally from Honolulu, Hawaii. She is the founder and Creative Director of Art & About PDX, a platform that has been documenting Portland’s art scene since 2014.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Ashley Giffordis a writer, art historian, and creative/tech professional based in Portland, Oregon. She is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief ofArt & About– part art blog, publication, resource for art in Portland, and the greater Pacific Northwest. This extensive documentation has created an archive of Portland’s art ecology since 2014. Her academic background includes a BA in art history and studio art from the University of Hawaii at Mānoa. Her artistic practice is multi-discliplinary and includes, photography, light, installation, sculpture and curation. Her writing can be found on thePortland Mercury, Art Practical,Ceramics Now, and other publications.


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