neil celani ceramics
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Currently seeking a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Know, Intend, Create


I am drawn to the primal force to create, the innate desire wired into human beings to engage in aesthetic making. The origins of aesthetic making are curious and I am interested in the links between myself as maker and makers of our ancient past. Exploring this relationship through the lens of my ceramic work facilitates a tangible connection to history, revealing universal truths about culture and humanity. Community, tradition, ritual, celebration; these truths are woven into culture and pots bring beauty and substance to communal occasions. My work is a means to tap into the primal spirit of life we share with our ancient ancestors, an homage to the collective unconscious that honors ancestral memory and experience.

My studio practice is an ongoing experiment balancing the foundations of form, materials, process, and utility with the conceptual elements of inspiration, idea, and meaning. Meaning for me is in part found in the making process, a continuously developing and evolving rhythm in the studio where each pot holds a seed for the next to grow. I draw inspiration from natural landscapes I have connected with in our world of geologic and biologic wonder. The swooping line on the edge of a lip, the profile of a form, or an arrangement of pots echo the cadence of the crests in a field of sand dunes. The horizon - where sky meets earth - can be represented in the rim of a pot - the dividing line on a form where inside meets outside. Wind- and water-weathered surfaces of geologic erosion are suggested with acts of scraping, scoring, and tooling. The material metamorphosis by way of flame and sodium vapor in the firing process modulate the color and surface, paralleling the well-worn surfaces I admire in the ancient, slip decorated pottery of Pre-Columbian and Native American cultures.

I hold great value in the social engagement that functional pottery inherently constructs and aim to create compelling, well-crafted objects to use for food and drink at the table or that stand alone as confident objects of beauty and contemplation on a mantle or pedestal. I view the table as a landscape for my pots, a stage set with handmade, aesthetic objects of utility that inspire and enrich the experience of breaking bread. Meaning for the audience is solidified by engaging with my work to use, offer, present, serve, contain, or place; this inevitably helps cultivate the context of my work and can transform an everyday routine into an aesthetic ritual. Pots fundamentally blur the boundaries between art and craft. They possess the ability to communicate conceptual meaning in the realm of expressive visual art and serve as formal objects of utility, tradition, and beauty.