I draw upon the malleable characteristics of clay to explore mental health and the manifestation of the mind’s machinations on the human body. Actively working with my hands, I use pinching and coil methods to shape life-size figures from low fire clay. My utilitarian forms (mugs, bowls, teapots, and plates) begin on the wheel but are only completed with the intervention of my bare hands as I sculpt on top of each object. I believe that tactile processes trigger my recollections, allowing me to express my mental images in clay through my senses and unspoken gestures.
My current body of work is a reflection of my time working in children’s hospitals and psychiatric units. As an art therapist intern, I assisted children under the age of thirteen who suffered from severe mental illness. As my memories of this time slowly deteriorate, so does the level of detail in my figures. The underglaze and house paint used for the exterior reference human skin. Each mark represents the distortions of my recollections and my attempts to make sense of complex disorders. Out of necessity, I reference my own body and facial features to create the children made of clay. I see them as part of me. Due to hospital restrictions, I was unable to care for the patients in the way I felt they needed. I could not control the outcomes of their lives. Carrying the clay bodies to and from the kiln, hand painting each figure, and clothing them gives me a sense of stability and purpose. By producing individual sculptures and installations I bring my experience to the surface, healing emotional and physical gaps that once felt impossible to close.
Kim Canfield is a figurative sculptor and ceramist who creates work that explores the impact of the mind on the human body. She received her BFA in Studio Arts from West Chester University of Pennsylvania in 2017 and her MFA from The University of Delaware in 2022. She has exhibited nationally and internationally, including WIRWIR in Berlin, Germany, NCECA, Baltimore Clayworks, West Chester University, The University of Delaware, The Clay Studio, and the Art Trust in West Chester, PA.