Thomas Müller

Thomas Müller currently live and works in Los Angeles where he is an Associate Professor and Chair of the 3D Area at the Roski School of Art and Design at the University of Southern California.

 

He grew up, as an only child, moving with his family every 2-4 years around the globe from locales as disparate as Africa to Kansas to a village in the Swiss countryside. This nomadic upbringing gave him a broad perspective on culture, language and the notion of what “home” is.

 

Ultimately, landing in Seattle where he went to high school and then went on to receive his BFA in Ceramics from the University of Washington.  After 3 years of studio practice in Seattle he went on to earn an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Detroit. Both programs pushed students to find their own voice as artists and challenge conventional dogma in their chosen medium.

 

Ultimately drawn to Los Angeles, not only because of its vibrant art scene but because it’s a place where so many of are from elsewhere. It’s a place that is physically and culturally dynamic and in a constant state of flux. 

 

 

My work draws on the languages of craft, design and art to explore notions of the ephemeral.

Ceramics as a medium is inexorably intertwined with the history of human civilization; its history can be traced back almost 30,000 years. Human history is more often than not traced and uncovered by the ceramic objects, remnants, and shards left behind by our ancestors.

While language itself is not a thing, it too is fundamentally intertwined with the human experience. My interest in language is about its ephemerality. I’m interested in its elusiveness and the liminal spaces between words and phrases. I’m interested in the internal architecture of language, the internal spaces that give language form and meaning. By giving language materiality and form through clay, I explore its fleeting nature, its malleability, and its inherent contradictions. In choosing the words and phrases for my work, I look for things that have multiple layers of meaning yet somehow collapse into themselves, exposing both the literal and the abstract.

 

Like clay, language is elastic. Changing and morphing over millennia, sometimes even within the course of a conversation, language can be molded to the needs of a speaker. My interest in language is poetic:  an idea forms in the mind as an abstraction, we skin it with language and that idea becomes literal and then, as it enters the listener’s mind, it becomes an abstraction again. It’s that slippage between the literal and the abstract that informs my work. 

 

The versatility and changeable qualities of clay allow me to explore the mutable nature of language. Whether it be the raw clay that blows away or crumbles when subjected to the forces of nature, or the fired object that shatters revealing its internal spaces, or the static object subjected to the transformational forces of the kiln that push and tear at the material, clay is a material that is literally malleable and is inherently about transformation. Every aspect of the ceramic process comes with, not only, unlimited material potential but more importantly poetic and conceptual heft. Material and process can tell a story that is both bound to and transcends that material.

 

-thomas patric müller 2021

 

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