Suzanne Marie Russell has been working with ceramics since 2017. Russell challenges preconceived ideas about how ceramic objects are understood by taking them out of domestic space and proposing a new context in which to see them. By using clay to make objects that have no practical function and refuse the conventional values of skill and beauty, her goal is to make art work that negotiates the uncomfortable space of the abject body and gives ceramics a non-craft identity. Russell constructs anthropomorphic objects that are in some way ridiculous, unstable or exaggerated. She is interested in the ways in which clay as a material can elicit and hold the emotional states and marks of the maker: how clay objects can embody information in the form an energy that reflects the act of making and the meaning of the work. While single works can be read as creatures with complex psychological lives, by putting two or more works together Russell creates relationships that suggest places, activities or narratives.

Russell is interested in the tension between form and surface, and she obsessively mark the surfaces of her objects as she builds them. Russell’s ritualistic approach invokes many different cultural histories within the ceramic tradition, specifically fertility and burial rituals that use figures, animals, deities, tools, bowls, funerary vases, cylindrical and abstract grave markers, houses, and warriors. She investigate ideas of exteriority and interiority, and many of her objects look anatomical and reference Freud’s ideas of Eros (sex drive) and Thanatos (death drive). Some of Russell’s objects are closed and refuse to reveal any core. Other objects are broken open to reveal something about how they were made or how the heat of the kiln during firing affected the color of the clay. Russell often recombine parts of objects made at different times to create hybrids that would be impossible to make outside of this process.