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Denton artist addresses feminine issues through ceramics

Denton artist addresses feminine issues through ceramics

Denton artist addresses feminine issues through ceramics
February 12
11:00 2021

Alazan (ah-lah-sanh) is the Spanish word for a chestnut-colored horse with a light tail. This is the word artist Amy Henson uses to brand her ceramics studio, in honor of her beloved first horse of 18 years, Azucena.

Amy, 31, began Alazan Ceramics after getting a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Southern Methodist University in 2007.

“After I graduated with my BFA, I knew I wanted to come up with a studio name,” she said. “A lot of potters will just use their name as kind of their moniker, but my name is kind of generic, so I felt like I needed a different name to kind of put over my studio.”

While pursuing a Master of Fine Arts at UNT, Amy focuses her art around feminist issues, connecting it to discrimination against groups within the art community.

“I’m interested in where my experience with marginalization as a person and culture and the marginalization of the medium of craft have this perfect relationship because they suffer from similar sort of dismissal,” Amy said. “I’m looking at issues of feminism and using craft media as a way to speak about it.”

She is currently working with Courtney DiMare, a second-year jewelry-and-metals graduate student at UNT, on a show about the social experiences that are related to the lived experience of women that will show at the Union gallery.

“I have [a set] that’s called ‘Baby Shower,’ and I have one that’s [called] ‘Lady Tea,’” Amy said.

After this work, Amy would like to create a set of baby bottles that have nipples as mouthpieces to confront people’s views on lactation.

“With the lactation bottles, I knew I wanted to use the function of the object to reconcile the discomfort of the viewer with that experience,” she said. “And oftentimes in my work, I’ll integrate the sculptural side of the object and the function in a way that will force the viewer to be uncomfortable. So with the nipple being the way that fluids come out, that made sense.”

At UNT, Amy is close with Brooks Oliver, ceramics professor and program coordinator, whom she met in the “close-knit community” of the ceramics world and is going on to study under him.

“Amy is a great student and teacher as she says what she thinks and is very articulate and observant,” Oliver said. “[Her] work is well-designed as she always takes into consideration how the user [or] viewer will interact [with] the work. Her surfaces entice the viewer to explore and every handle calls out to be held.”

Amy began her journey in ceramics during her undergraduate years at SMU, where she took her first ceramics course sophomore year, as a drawing major fulfilling her requirement to take additional courses in different media.

“I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I just really took to it. So, at the end of the semester, the ceramics professor was like, ‘You know, maybe you’d like to switch from drawing and painting to ceramics,’ and I just went for it.”

Ceramics drew Amy in with its tactile component. She said she enjoys being able to touch the material and use her hands, which are her favorite tool.

“There’s always somewhere else to go, and clay can do anything because it’s just a lot of mud,” she said.

Amy said she also loves the task of having to create a functional object along while instilling meaning in it.

“You’re trying to somehow bring together the utility of an object that has to do a job really well and the artistic message you are trying to imbue the object with,” Amy said. “It’s really a complex relationship, but I like a challenge.”

Amy has had her hand in all different types of ceramics, from her start in a wheel throwing class to now, when she does slab building, which is a form of hand building that use flat slabs of clay or pinching balls. 

By her side, is her husband Aaron Murray Henson and their 5-year-old daughter Rosalie.

“My favorite thing about Amy is her tenacity,” Aaron said. “Her motivation, she has it in spades, you know. It causes me to reflect on how hard I work if I don’t feel like I’m living up to that standard of workmanship.”

Aaron, an art director, graphic designer and freelance illustrator, is very understanding and offers Amy great support as an artist himself.

“[I give her] any advice or guidance that I could possibly help or give her, being a fellow creative person,” he said. “It always helps to have somebody in your corner that has your best interests at heart but maybe sees things a little differently than you. It allows you to have a good faith, different perspective on your art.”

After getting her MFA, Amy hopes to teach art at a university.

“I feel like I have the experience and the age on me to make a credible leader, and also be effective, helping build community around a program,” she said. “So teaching at the university level is one of my primary goals. I’m really interested in having my sources of income not be directly related to the work, so I have the freedom to make what seems right to me.”

Courtesy Amy Henson

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Kelly Tran

Kelly Tran

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