Tom Bartel

Tom Bartel

The head is typically perceived as the “center” of ourselves, controlling how we are identified as well as controlling our thoughts, emotions and actions. Because of the importance of this part of the body, an entire being or persona may still be present when all else is removed.


The questions that arise from this cultural mishmash fuel my creative practice. I am interested in both the fragmentation and simplification of human form, especially how this decision encourages, if not requires, the viewer to participate with the work. Within this context, I view that which is absent as significant as that which is present. Furthermore, I use the human condition as a point of departure where themes related to gender, rites of passage, fertility and mortality are constant “threads” within my creative practice.


I am attracted to heavily worn surfaces that reveal the “history” of an object. I see our skin as having the same story-telling potential as the ceramic surfaces I develop. Ultimately, I view these “marks” as having the capacity to be both formally beautiful and to suggest changes that have taken place over time. Surface patterns are also used to blur the line between where clothing ends and skin begins, where the concepts of mask, identity, disguise, and transformation are fundamental to my concerns. Throughout our life our appearance slowly and inevitably changes; in the process our skin records this story.

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Tom Bartel