Comedy & Tragedy
Often art is seen as an introverted, solitary experience involving serious thought and messages. Frequently overlooked are the examples of the lighter side of human existence – comedy. Art, like life, is a balance between comedy and tragedy. Shakespeare’s darkest plays were balanced with keen wit and humor. My intent in much of my artwork is to reveal the purpose of humor in art and to show that in art comedy and tragedy are dependent on each other for a deeper understanding of the human condition.
Ceramic artists can draw from a rich history of figurative art. Examples of humor can be found in naïve art like Indian Mimbres pottery, Carolina “face jugs”, and “outsider” folk art. Although the art’s original intent may or may not have been humor, a contemporary perspective can often find comedic value. More contemporary examples by artists like George Orr, Marcel Duchamp and Robert Arneson have also influenced my work. These artists looked at the world of contemporary art from the sidelines; never being fully accepted. The lack of recognition caused them to thumb their noses at “the system” and create artwork that often-used absurdity to get the point across. It is only now that these outsiders have become pillars of our art schools.
I like to call clay “Magic Dirt”. People don’t know why clay works the way it does; it is not dirt, yet it has all the minerals as any dirt or soil. Dirt is so common; to find it magical is like finding air magical. Yet it is, but we forget about it.
What is not taken or returned to this earth? Everything we have and exist with is the earth in one form or another. We as humans transform this Magic Dirt to cars, cans, planes, oil etc. We are the most Magic Dirt of all. We were formed and exist from this earth and return once more. That is the true magic. How did this happen? We model our behavior over this magic.
The earth is my media. Add fire and it becomes frozen in time. Magic Dirt!
Richard Nickel (born 1969, Rochester, NY) received a Bachelor of Science in Art Education from State University College at Buffalo, New York in 1996. The received a Master of Fine Arts in Ceramics 2000 at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.
Richard Nickel is an active artist, educator and writer who has exhibited both nationally and internationally. He has been published in several books on contemporary ceramics and art journals. As a designer, Richard has created posters for Crafted Indie Arts and Crafts Market, a cover illustration for Studio Potter, ceramic awards for Skutt Kilns, illustrations for Alt Daily and animations for WHRO HealthBeat. As a ceramic sculptor, he has pieces in numerous private collections. Richard is also an active public artist, having designed and painted murals in Rochester, NY; Niagara Falls, NY; Norfolk, VA; and Virginia Beach, VA. And Hampton, VA.