Alice Woodruff

Enjoy this Virtual Tour created by Woodstork Productions

MAA Spotlight Gallery June/July/August


TRANSITIONS:  “Vessels for Sam”

A Bridge to New Clay Sculpture

Some ten years following my son’s suicide (Samuel Thomas Crowe, 03-06-1985 – 06-30-2003) and after my own return to working in clay, I began to feel a compulsion to make clay objects in an effort to help work through unresolved and unaccepted grief. That healing process resulted in the Transitions body of work.

Through exhibiting this work, I hope to open a conversation in the community regarding suicide and grief.  Feelings of shame and isolation are common for the surviving family and friends as well as the victim. I want to shine a light into this darkness and depression.  As a result of illumination, if one person is able to discuss with his or her support network, it will be worth the exposure of my journey into the underworld of grief. My travels down this road are not entirely altruistic, I have been able to work through self- discovery.

I’ve been a “maker” most of my life. Originally, I started by making functional objects, but recently figurative and representational work has held my attention. Perhaps I really am a visual storyteller. Regardless, creating functional or sculptural work, I have always felt that a bit of my sub-consciousness resides in the objects I create. I do not always understand the evolution and development of the pieces – they frequently take on a life of their own. The objects, at times, develop a near-mystical quality; on occasion, I have been surprised and disturbed by the resulting images. It is only in hindsight that I realize high emotion and grief are powerful instigators and muse for my creativity.

Originally all of the pieces were open ‘boats’ in which I could symbolically and literally fill with objects from my son’s life. I wanted to provide for him in the mythical afterlife. (Not exactly an original idea, but a starting place for me.)  Later, I learned how to make hollow forms with slabs of clay. As a result, the boats developed into more barge-like structures creating a stage for figures and concepts to develop.  I started dealing with more obscure ideas related to death and coping with loss using representational and figurative imagery.

There are 3 transitional pieces made since the first showing of this exhibition. “Mother of Crow” helps to anchor the bird imagery to the figurative imagery.  This feels like some sort of completion of that journey. The subsequent two pieces result from Dream Work. While I don’t understand the howler monkey’s significance yet. I do recognize them as a turn up an unknown tributary of the river, that journey’s pleasure, trials, and hazards are yet to be discovered.

Alice Woodruff Pagoda Boat

Alice Woodruff:  About the Artist

Alice Woodruff’s interest in pottery began in high school when she was introduced to clay by Mike Pitts, who was a then student-teacher visiting from The University of Georgia. In recognition of her potential, Alice was invited as a high school student into UGA’s ceramic studio. This was followed by summer intensives at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts and then at Miami University, Ohio. Between college and opening her first pottery studio in 1972, Alice had a pottery apprenticeship in a small studio and shop in Tubac, Arizona.

From 1972 to 1995, Alice enjoyed working as a production potter, successfully owning and operating studios in three locations in Oconee County, Georgia. Her work was regularly sold and shipped nationally to galleries, craft, and museum shops. During this early part of her career, she supported her family, while also participating in juried shows at galleries in Athens, Atlanta, Rome, Columbus, and Savannah, Georgia.

In her early forties, Alice decided that the physical demands of being a production potter, was not practical in the long-run, so she returned to school. Alice first completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Science of Nursing. She then pursued her Master’s Degree from Georgia State and became a Nurse Practitioner specializing in Neurosurgery and Spine Rehabilitation.

After 13 years of nursing, Alice was laid off in the midst of the 2008 recession, so she returned to her first love, clay. This time Alice decided to explore her long-held desire to create sculpture. Drawing from that desire and finding the need to work through unresolved grief over the death of her son, Alice created, “Transitions: Vessels for Sam.” Alice’s next major collection, “Warrior Women: from Invisible to Formidable,” was inspired by the #MeToo movement. Alice’s overwhelming empathy and compassion for these women survivors allowed her to continue to work through traumatic experiences. Both collections have been well received and have been introduced as solo shows.

In 2018, Alice was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation. The diagnosis and treatments, however, only succeeded in slowing her down minimally.  During treatment, she created 36 figurative sculptures in what will become a continuation of the first Warrior Women collection, entitled “Warrior Women: Evolution”.

All the sculptural work began as an introspective journey of emotion, grief, and trauma.  Alone in the studio with only the drive to create and the need to explore her experiences, Alice discovered her work to be cathartic and necessary in dealing with her diagnosis and other life challenges. The finished work, however, is not a solo experience. The universality of grief and trauma is not unique to any one person, and the stories that are shared through the sculpture are part of the commonality of the human emotional experience.

With the current goal of a hundred “Warrior Women”, Alice is looking forward to sharing their stories and hers with a wide audience. This body of work is Alice’s contribution to the conversation and activism here and elsewhere for equal rights for women, fighting misogyny and honoring early activists.

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