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Sculpting TimeArlene Shechet

June 29, 2015

Arlene Shechet discusses a series of plaster sculptures that she created over the course of six years in the mid-1990s, following the death of a close friend. The artist developed a greater appreciation of time following the experience.

“To honor Carol, I basically threw out everything in my studio and I started anew,” says Shechet. She began sculpting in plaster, a material with which she had previously worked, but had not valued in the same way. “Every single second as it’s drying, it changes,” says Shechet, who sculpted without an armature. “Whatever time—be it an hour or be it five hours—I would make a piece out of that material that suddenly became just the right thing.”

Though she eventually recognized the sculptures to resemble Buddhist iconography, Shechet initially intended to create figures that could remind her of the fragility of life. An installation of the sculptures, which reflects how she lives with them in her studio, is shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston as part of Shechet’s twenty-year survey, All at Once (June 10 – September 7, 2015).

More information and credits


Producer: Ian Forster. Consulting Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Ian Forster & Susan Sollins. Camera: Ian Forster, Rafael Salazar & Joel Shapiro. Sound: Roger Phenix & Ava Wiland. Editor: Morgan Riles. Artwork Courtesy: Arlene Shechet & Sikkema Jenkins & Co. Archival Images Courtesy: Arlene Shechet. Special Thanks: ICA Boston. Theme Music: Peter Foley.

Art21 Exclusive is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; 21c Museum Hotel, and by individual contributors.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Arlene Shechet

Arlene Shechet employs an experimental approach to ceramic sculpture—she tests the limits of gravity, color, and texture by pushing against the boundary of classical techniques, sometimes fusing her kiln-fired creations with complex plinths formed of wood, steel, and concrete. Variously sensual, humorous, and elegant, her clay-based vessels evoke the tension between control and chaos, beauty and ugliness, perfection and imperfection. Considering herself an installation artist who happens to make objects, Shechet focuses intently on ensuring that the display, sight lines, and relationships of the objects in her exhibitions change with every view while maintaining formal equilibrium.


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