As MOCA's fifth annual University of North Florida Student Artist-in-Residence, Mark Lester created a series of ceramic works including wall hangings and sculptures that blend steel, clay, and glass. These works are now on view in the exhibition, Interior Geography, in the Education Gallery on MOCA's fifth floor. The exhibition reception will be at MOCA on Thursday January 10th from 6:00-8:00 pm. Be sure to visit MOCA on Thursday January 17th for a tour with the artist at 6:00 pm.
Tell us a little a bit
about how you became interested in ceramics.
first became interested in ceramics in high school. My favorite thing to do
when I was younger was make things out of wood or whatever else I had on hand,
so clay was great because I was able to make just about anything I wanted. I
got really into it in high school. In college art wasn't my first major, and I
came back to clay when I realized I needed to be doing creative work.
Describe a typical day in your studio at MOCA.
usually have some clay or other materials to bring up, so I get that settled
and then check on the projects that have been sitting from the day before. The
moisture content of the clay has to be monitored or else the clay will get too
dry to work on, so I always start by spritzing down anything that I have in the
works. Then I open the door so that people can drop in and I start working. I
always have three to four projects going at once, so I bounce between those
throughout the rest of the day.
Where do you find
inspiration for your work and what kind of themes do you explore?
I’ve always drawn a good
deal of inspiration from nature, specifically trees, their textures, and the
ways that light interacts with leaves at certain times of day. I’m exploring that idea a
bit in this project, through the combination of clay and glass. My goal is to
have glass elements in these sculptures that augment the way that the overall
piece interacts with ambient light. More recently, I’ve been inspired by the
precision of machined items, especially those made from metal. I think this
comes through in a lot of what I’ve been making recently. In a lot of my work I begin with
organic shapes, and then temper those shapes with hard lines and precise edges
found in more mechanical forms. The theme of this particular project is
interior space. I will be using clay as a base material and adding glass and
metal as needed to construct pieces that convey some aspect of created depth.
How has your experience
at UNF been as an artist?
I’ve had a great
experience in the Fine Arts program at UNF. The ceramics studio is really well
equipped, and our professors are fantastic. I’ve also gotten to do a lot of things I wouldn't have otherwise,
like learn how to weld and cast metal. The college has a lot of great
opportunities, like this residency, so I feel pretty lucky to have found my way
into the program. It’s given
me the space to do a lot of artistic exploration.
How will this residency at MOCA better prepare you for a career
as an artist?
long-term goal is to become a professional studio artist, and potentially teach
at the college level. Both paths involve working with museums and planning
shows, so it’s awesome to get some insight into how things work behind the
scenes. I’ve been working with some of the staff at MOCA to plan the show
for this work, and just seeing how that process works is really educational.
Also, working at MOCA is very independent, so I’m
getting a feel for what’s required to be a productive artist outside the school setting.
This residency has given me the impetus to go in a totally new direction with
my work and have a space to show it. It is an invaluable experience in a lot of
What is the nature of your current project?
basis of this project is ceramic wall sculpture. I’m
really interested in creating ceramic sculpture that can enter the same space
that you might normally find a painting. I’m also using some mixed
media in these pieces, specifically glass and steel. The theme that connects
all of the pieces is going to be a focus on interior space. I’ve
always been fascinated by created interior space and hollow places, like caves
or the insides of cathedrals. They’re spaces that invite a
visitor or viewer to step in and explore what might be hidden inside, and I’m
hoping I can capture some of that magic in these pieces. I want the work to
arouse curiosity in the viewer, so that they spend some time exploring the
interior of the sculpture.