Marie Gibbons: Tiles + Tactile Memory

By JoAnn Locktov

Jack in the Beanstalk could do worse than to depend on Marie Gibbons’s “Natural Desire to Climb” series of tile to reach his lofty treasure.  Inspired by an exhibit titled Ladders, for which the series was intended, the 5” square sgraffito tiles offer a toehold into the imaginative realm of Gibbons’ memory and experience.

Her interest in the organic form resulted in creating plant-type imagery as ladders. The black velvet under glaze is revealed and also scraped away.  Gibbons manipulates her tiles by sketching directly onto the surface, pushing up from the bottom of the slab and pressing down from the top while the clay is leather hard.  The high relief and ornate detailing create intricate patterns, dimension and whorls of energy.

“Red Pods” and “Spiral Tree Branch” continue the exploration with organic forms.  Both 12” square tiles are finished in acrylic washes and sealed with paste wax.  Gibbons works directly on the tile surface, the process is immediate and spontaneous. Her post-fired finishes are a rich palette of verdant hues. They are the colors of lush forests and ripe red berries.

Gibbons had an artistic epiphany sixteen years ago.  “I discovered clay in 1995, and when I did everything else took a step back. I had found more than just a medium, I found my MUSE.”  The internationally exhibited artist, who also creates figurative sculpture, has a “self directed” education.  Using memory and the reflection of her own experiences, she feels the continuum in her work is that “it speaks from my life.”

The box tile Crow Triptych, entitled “The Journey,” is a stream of consciousness with unintelligible language scrawled in the background. The crow carries an
incomplete fortune; “You will enjoy many successful…” leaving the viewer to insert their relevant desire.

Gibbons took to the street to create her “Urban” tile series. Rolling slabs on city streets, she memorialized the debris of sidewalks: manhole covers, cracks, and asphalt joints. The 5” square fired slabs were washed with black acrylic, which was then scrubbed off to reveal the white clay body. The gritty abstractions that remain are a tactile memory of every street Gibbons has traversed.  Growing up on Long Island, Gibbons balances urban reality with the beaches and more natural environment of her childhood.  Both co-exist and inspire work that is derived from the freedom to explore.

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