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PJ Hargraves

I navigate the uncertain times we live in by creating positive, playful sculptures because focusing on joy is not only possible in times of hardship, I believe it is necessary in order to thrive. I go through life with a watchful reverence, finding beauty and hope in the abundance of life in the natural world. Using playful form language and intuitive mark making, I invent my own array of stylized plant life in the form of contained environments, allowing me to reinvent and intentionally exaggerate landscapes and plant forms in clay with a freeing sense of whimsy. My fantasized pieces are an invitation to extend imagination to the joyous moments in the world around us, and to return to an innocent sense of wonder. My studio practice is an overtly optimistic alternative to the pessimism that is present in many aspects of our culture, capturing simple joy and delight through the act of making. The trees I sculpt are methodical and rhythmic, inspired by both wild and manicured plants, but constructed within the limitations of the process of coil building and the tensile strength of clay. I work with an emphasis on experimental spirit in the studio, constantly taking risks with aspects of my making process and the materials I utilize. I find beauty in the immediacy and materiality of clay, working spontaneously and playfully to imbue my pieces with palpable energy. I combine a reverence for traditional folk craft with an overstated and garish flamboyance, using materials like Egyptian paste and beer bottle glass simultaneously. I am an enthusiastic artist and craftsman, inspired by folk art, historical ceramics, textiles, and the decorative symbols, icons, and motifs that appear across time and disparate cultures. My high-spirited objects draw inspiration from Pennsylvania Dutch folk symbols and metaphors of good fortune, perseverance, hopefulness, and strength. The most prevalent representations of these themes emerge in the form of various birds and flowers. Referencing this tradition, I adorn each of my pieces with stylized birds and flowers as a symbolic pattern of abundance and celebration. My sculptures often include vessels to suggest generosity and plentiful harvest through pottery’s deeply rooted history as crafted objects intended for containing and offering. My imagined scenes are a celebration of life’s abundance and a celebration of ceramic processes, offering positivity and delight through optimistic symbols and lush ceramic surfaces. I hope this work can be an opportunity to stimulate playful imagination and draw attention to the importance of finding moments of joy in our increasingly complicated daily lives.

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