Dana Lazarus-Cass creates simple, visual narratives and tableaux out of clay that investigate questions of “being human.” She combines different ceramic techniques to reflect upon contemporary issues. Using a thrown, extruded or hand-built object, which often references domestic utilitarian ware, she creates a landscape or stage for miniature slip-cast figures to play out various roles. Her use of mixed media, such as glass, string, silicon and resin, highlights particular psychological nuances and heightens the work into the surreal and darkly humorous. The titles given to her pieces are procured from newspaper and magazine headlines, lyrics of songs, snippets of dinner conversations.
Lazarus-Cass gained her BA (Hons) Ceramics from the University of Westminster in 2012, as well as a BA (Hons), Visual Communications from Ohio University, 1983. Her work has been shown in various shows throughout the UK including: Nought-Anew Sculpture, Mile End Pavilion, Rising Stars, Coombe Gallery, Dartmouth, Stellar Graduates, Dartmouth, Am I In The Right Place?, Sunbury Garden Gallery, Sunbury-on-Thames, Second Career Artist, Second Half Centre, London, West Dean Design and Crafts Fair with MADE, Chichester. Her work is in private collections throughout the UK, USA, France, Australia and Beirut.
What is it about the Young Masters project that you are most interested in?
The idea that the “Young” in “Young Masters” is much more about the length of one’s practice rather than the amount of years one has tallied up in age. As working in ceramics is a “second career” choice for me, I feel especially proud to being taken seriously despite not being as “young” as many newcomers to the ceramics world are. But I think when a developing, mature, artist has had both many years to absorb and consider other artists’ work – the “masters” and their own contemporaries – in addition to having a greater understanding of ourselves – it has an added depth of influence on our own work.
Can you explain to us what your work is about?
I have been able to take a medium; clay, and transform it into narrative pieces about the human condition. I create tableaux that focus and ask questions about relationships – to ourselves – to each other and our physical and inner worlds.
Which artist/s are you most inspired by?
Grayson Perry curated and created work for a show a couple of years ago at the British Museum entitled “The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman” – and I think I have a similar sense of simpatico with indigenous people, particularly in the Pueblos of Southwestern United States, South America and Africa who incorporate figures on to their utilitarian ware. The way those artisans remained honest to their materials and their chosen colour palettes has left a significant impression on me.
In a more contemporary arena the work of Antony Gormley and Mark Wallinger has had a very strong impact on my artistic psyche. Gormley sets the human figure in a wide variety of urban and countryside landscapes which asks us to consider mankind’s place on earth, while, Mark Wallinger’s powerful masterpiece “Ecce Home” of a Christ figure on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square transcended a spiritual sensibility for me.
Can you tell us something about your background?
I was born and raised in New York, gained my first degree in Visual Communications from Ohio University and worked in various capacities in the photographic and film industries. In 2012 I earned a BA (Hons) Ceramics from University of Westminster, Harrow.
What inspired you to become an artist?
Being “self-immersed” in the visual arts since I can remember.
Finding my “voice” and being able to express it.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
I would have liked to have been a singer but not sure others would have agreed (or been happy!) with that choice.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
Being short listed for this prize isn’t too shabby! Ceramicist Kate Malone came to our graduation show, which was filled with invited friends and family, and saw I had sold quite a number of pieces. She said “Once you start selling to complete strangers you know you’re on to something.” I think my greatest achievement was selling my first piece to a complete stranger.
What are your plans for the future?
To continue developing my ideas and my craftsmanship, to keep learning and expressing notions of being an individual in today’s fast-paced, technologically driven world through one our most ancient and earthbound materials.