We had the good fortune of connecting with Troy Aiken and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Troy, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Risk taking is one of the primary factors that is prevalent when someone makes or performs any artistic process. There is always some dimension of risk involved in the making process especially in ceramics and over the years I started to embrace risk more as my curiosities started to evolve within my work. I think that a comment that has stuck with me over the years was from one of my undergraduate professors when he took me aside one day and told me that I should be taking more risks in school while I have that safe space available to fail and fail big if necessary. He then told me, “Think about it as if you were to jump out of an airplane and then try to invent a parachute before you hit the ground.” I will never forget that.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work seeks to investigate my research interests within the history of mass production and mold making within ceramics. It is my attempt to break traditional means of constructing, which allows me to satisfy my curiosities with conflating the meaning, function, and decorative nature of these individual ceramic objects born from molds. Reproducing these objects from a range of histories in a contemporary setting allows them to metaphorically live “in the now” thereby becoming current. The clay articles taken from these molds come together as a single form, which exist on a plane where nonsense and meaningfulness come together. I choose to reflect on the work in terms of artifacts and or remnants of contemporary cultures left behind as they turn into amorphous objects existing through time, only to be unearthed in a possible dystopian future. These vessel-like structures become either more enhanced or dilapidated through simulation with multiple glaze applications as surfaces begin to either lose or gain surface information and represent ideas of burial, excavation, decay and chemical processes that occur in a landfill. These assemblage mementos are constructed and arranged repeatedly, enabling my own playfulness and personality to become instilled within the work making it my own, even though sometimes my physical hand is not present. The use of stoneware and porcelain clay acknowledges the material convention in which many of these factory-produced objects were composed of most notably throughout Europe. Working with factory-made objects enables the work to reflect a plethora of content comprised of intricate compositions and a unification of disparate entities. This way of building collectively allows me to continue to contribute and push the boundaries of the contemporary ceramic visual language that the work embodies.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I think because Chicago is so close to where I live, Big Star Tacos in Chicago would have to be a constant staple throughout the week long trip so definitely go there for lunch or dinner a few times. Also for Dinner, Soule’ has some pretty great creole-infused soul food which is fabulous. Since my friends and I all collect vinyl records, Reckless Records and Bucket of Blood Records in Chicago would also have to be necessary stops during the day throughout the week. Of course being in the arts I would want to swing by the Museum of Contemporary Art as well as the Chicago Art institute to check out what is on display. If we were going to grab a quick drink somewhere, The Aviary is a great place to unwind and have good conversation.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to dedicate this to all of the people in my life who have guided and helped me channel my creative energy into something tangible starting with my parents who have always been there for me every step of the way, Tony Marsh who challenged me to get out of my comfort zone on a continuous basis when I was younger, Matthew Isaacson my former colleague and good friend who gave me an opportunity to expand upon my teaching experience and art career, and finally Bill Kremer who has been and continues to be an unwavering constant pillar of support for me throughout all of my current endeavors.