By Way of Introduction

Alicia Cannizzo, Medusa, 2010. Ceramic with gauche and wax.

“I write entirely to find out what I am thinking, what I am looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” — Joan Didion

“Give yourself fully to your endeavors. Decide to construct your character through excellent actions and determine to pay the price of a worthy goal. The trials you encounter will introduce you to your strengths.” — Epictetus

I have loved the things humans make my whole life. I have also reveled in being able to make things, even as a little girl. An introduction is a tricky thing to write about one’s self, but I think that just about sums me up. I keep the two above quotes on my computer, on sticky notes, to remind me of what I am up to when I get low. It is easy to get low when the things you value don’t lead to immediate renumeration. History, myth, the human body, the human making sense of the world. The human capacity to make and think and see. These are the things I am curious about and they drive me. They don’t tend to pay very well, but I am making a life based on these values. These essays are a chronicle of the journey.

I studied sculpture as an undergraduate at the Evergreen State College. I specialized in ceramics and wrote romanticized essays about the effect of handmade things on a life of quiet beauty. In my senior year I completed a series of figurative ceramic sculptures that explored modern notions of memory held within the body using the visual language of medieval body-part reliquaries. The work received a little flurry of small-town attention. It also got me hooked on historical research. As I studied reliquaries from the late medieval period, I became fixated on the intersection between the material and the spiritual, the capacity for base matter to hold a truth about the most immaterial of relationships, that between the human and the divine. Even more, I began to see in the past a culture in which art had been both affective and effective, and actual created ways of perceiving the world, had encouraged physical encounters such as touch, kisses, even an embrace. I wanted to understand a culture in which art had held that much potency, and find ways to bring it into the present if I could. 

My quest to understand the experience of art in the past led me to graduate school. I received an MA in art history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2014, and moved to NYC that same year to pursue a PhD in art history. Since moving to the city I have had the extraordinary opportunity to intern at The Cloisters, to study textiles at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and to teach the history of art both at Hunter College and at NYU. In 2017 I began to miss making work, and I have found opportunities since then to continue my own studio practice both on my own and as a part of the production team at Jono Pandolfi Designs. I am still working on my dissertation, but hope to be done by May of 2022. This blog is about everything I think about and learn, about my own creative process and my relationship to the distant past. Thank you for reading, I hope it inspires or feeds your own intellectual process.

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