Formally trained as a ceramicist, I use clay in efforts that build on the historically communal and cross cultural applications of functional pottery; conducting projects that manipulate its production, distribution and use. Absurdist forms and performances explore art as a means to facilitate actual community services, while simultaneously questioning traditional economies of art, the fetishization of objects, the glorification of the artistic persona, and the paradox of altruism in artmaking. Functional ceramics, experimental kilns, hand painted signs, propaganda, documentation, social media and my physical presence serve as my primary mediums, frequently operating both as individual artworks and as a means for facilitating site-specific and participatory actions.
My collaborative partner, Hamilton Poe, and I utilize our friendship, our communication and our phones to navigate the nuances of an artworld that we operate both inside of and around. Through our exercises in transparency and consensus based decision making we confront notions of success and meaning, as the gestures and conceptual challenges we encounter through our improvisation subvert traditional economies and myths of art making. Operating between desires to exist in the moment and to contextualize the moment as it unfolds, we conduct our exploration of aesthetic spaces as a way to justify our play as work.
Working to be the best human, friend, community member, citizen, artist, activist, educator, son, brother, husband, etc, I can, is the task at hand every single day. My art is that process.
Henry James Haver Crissman was born August 31st 1990 in Midland, MI, the son of two veterinarians and youngest of three children. He earned a BFA in Craft/Ceramics from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, MI in 2012 and his MFA in Ceramics at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 2015. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally, and has received grants, fellowships and residencies to support his dynamic projects exploring ceramics as a avenue for arts education, advocacy and critique. In addition to his personal practice, he works collaboratively with Hamilton Poe, and is a core member of the Socially Engaged Craft Collective. Public empowerment through arts education is at the core of his creative practice, and with this in mind he has taught at The College for Creative Studies, Alfred University, Oakland County Community College, Marygrove College, Wayne State University and at a number of community art centers. He and his wife (Virginia Torrence), dog (Petunia) and two cats (Bob and Mona) now live and work at Hamtramck Radiator Artist Residency in Hamtramck, MI, a very small, dense and extraordinarily diverse city within the city of Detroit, MI.