“This abiding passion for nature”: the ceramic art of Susan Greenleaf

Photo by Greg Staley

The drear of winter can cast a gloomy mood—but spring is approaching, and Torpedo Factory artists are both attuned to and inspired by the changing of the seasons. Visit the studio of Susan Greenleaf and you’ll see poignant depictions of metamorphosis and rebirth—embodied by a strangely beautiful collaboration with a crayfish.

“I got involved in the life cycle of these crustaceans after freeing one from a beer can in my home river in south Texas and bringing it back here to watch it grow,” Greenleaf explains. “Every time it shed its carapace, I would arrange and dry it, then cast it in Hydrocal, thus making it an instant fossil while it yet lived and recording its progress in a form I could use in my work.”

For Greenleaf, the mysteries of the natural world—as well as natural textures and forms—offer vital starting points for creativity. She’s been honored with two solo art shows at the National Zoo Gallery, she’s working with the McIntyre Tile Factory on lines of sculptural tiles in botanical themes, and she’s currently collaborating with an old friend on stoneware vases and mugs featuring bas-relief depictions of horses.

Is it odd, we wondered, to highlight Greenleaf’s crawdad work on Mardi Gras?  “I don’t know if it will speak to people whose great interest is etouffee,” she jokes, turning back to her work: encouraging the rest of us to look at art and see a world that’s undeniably alive.

See Susan Greenleaf’s work for yourself at the Torpedo Factory at “Fire One” in studio 22, and learn more about the artist at susangreenleafpottery.com.

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