Nina de Creeft Ward
Oryx, Stressed
clay, salt-fired
21.5" x 32" x 14"
“Oryx, Stressed”, is a large Scimitar Horned Oryx piece, a partial figure, or container, the head with a pair of curving horns acting as a stopper. This is part of a series of pieces, which began a couple of years ago as variations on the rhyton, or animal headed vessel form. For more freedom, and easier handling, the larger examples are becoming more like a sort of canopic jar. The vessel section of this piece was originally just a large neck. I wanted more weight to balance those horns, so I opened up the neck and added shoulders and a partial body. The shoulders came through the bisque all right, but cracked in the salt firing. I preferred not to fill these openings, leaving them as symbols of the trials this species of African antelope has gone through, coming near to extinction. The rope textures have a little history. I made a heavy clay slab and pressed rope and heavy fish netting into it, dried and fired it, creating concave textures. Now, when I roll out a slab on that, the textures are raised, or convex. I made that originally for some black rhino pieces. To me, the ropes symbolize capture, restraint, and stress. I see the skin of the animal somehow also as the earth surface, with the geometric sgraffito marks telling us of human activity on the land, farming fields replacing wild country. The dark sections are the natural animal markings, brushed in with an iron oxide wash. The gesture of motion, even panic, makes this piece live, for me.

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