Alisa (AL) Holen
Alisa (AL) Holen is an artist and educator who received an MA and an MFA in Ceramics from the University of Iowa in Iowa City. She has since taught ceramics and sculpture at numerous institutions including University of Iowa, University of Nebraska, Omaha, and the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse. She is currently an associate professor of art at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville, IN.
Alisa Holen strongly advocates using art to engage the community and organizes yearly “Empty Bowls” events to raise money for local charities and to introduce people to working with clay.
Her ceramic work focuses on formal and metaphorical relationships, often staging forms in postures of dependency, elevation, support, aggression or comfort. Her work is functional but maintains a sculptural presence.
“Both metaphorically and as a three-dimensional design quandary, the nuances of relationships fascinate me. Since graduate school, I have taught at eight different colleges and universities. This has led to many new and interesting relationships, both professional and personal. It is in these relationships that I find inspiration. I am interested in creating dialogues and relationships within my ceramic forms. The work focuses on formal and metaphorical relationships, often staging forms in postures of dependency, elevation, support, aggression or comfort. Swelling volumes are often perched on tiny bases, evoking nuances of vulnerability and tension. Cups are precariously perched into forms to illustrate the assailable nature of relationships. Special attention is given to the shapes and textures, swells and voids of their interactions. Beyond this, there is something immensely satisfying about finding playful and artistic solutions to functional problems. There is such a rich and varied history in functional ceramics, that I enjoy keeping my work inside the boundary of ‘functional’, even if the presence of the piece is overwhelmingly sculptural.
I simply love working with the clay, making functional and contemplative pieces. It is the physicality of the making that brings me the most joy. A day in the studio is a great day… it feels magical to see ware-boards full of new work. It is gratifying to use skills that have been learned and honed over time to bring something useful into this world from a formless mass of clay. It’s taking part in a long history, and it connects me with the past. I hope the pieces I make, with their contemporary design sensibilities, will bring others joy well into the future. When others use the work I make, a new relationship is formed and the relationship metaphor is fully realized. I am proud and humbled to be a part of this remarkable ceramics continuum.”