The Material Landscape

Date of Award


Degree Type

Creative Project

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


Art and Design

Committee Chair(s)

Dan Murphy


Dan Murphy


John Neely


Todd Hayes


The Material Landscape

Tom Alward

Exhibition Statement

The materials and compositions that make up a natural landscape are always changing. Wind, water, temperature extremes, and persistent exposure and erosion have an infinite and relentless timeline. Inevitably, we all see a snapshot of this slow geologic change. Although extremely powerful, destructive, ephemeral, and often undetectable, natural materials are in a constant state of effortless surrender, and are never void from eventual weathering and displacement from these elemental forces.

This exhibition reflects my ceramic investigation with this natural phenomenon. The pieces I have selected for this exhibition are my collective attempt at conveying this greater landscape and material fascination into ceramic objects. The creative process begins with the exploration and harvest of clays from Utah and Northern Arizona, followed by countless tests and clay blends to develop unique colors and textures. Ultimately, I selected twelve clays.

These raw clays can possess desired textures in forming objects. Creating forms with unprocessed ceramic materials provides me with a distinct opportunity and challenge. I celebrate the coarse characteristics of these clays, and embrace the small aggregates of pebble-like stones, organic material, large quartz grain and clay particle sizes, which promote cracks and distinct surface qualities. Likewise, color is developed in the wood firing process and plays an equally integral role. I use these colors in a sculptural and painterly way to enhance the textures in my compositions and forms.

The intent to generate wood fired ceramic compositions on the walls and pedestals with line and implied line, relates to anomalies found in rocks and natural objects. My hope is that each piece alludes to the ebb-and-flow from ceramic form to landscape and landscape to ceramic form.

My goal is for these objects to ultimately speak for themselves, and tell story of place, landscape, and importance, that is far better acknowledged and preserved; not destroyed and forgotten.


Additional committee member: Ryoichi Suzuki

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Additional Files

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Orange/Black Panel

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Cracked Tryptic

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Composition 1

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Corrugated Wall Form

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Medium Slab

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Composition 2

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Wall Platter

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Dark Tryptic

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Material Studies

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Wall Platter

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Composition 3

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Butterscotch Basin

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3 Plates

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Cracked Basin

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Large Red Jar

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Yellow/Red Composition

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Gallery Layout 1

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Gallery Layout 2

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Gallery Layout 3