Courtney Mattison, “What Will Become”

Introduction by Mary Kathryn Jablonski

For TQ31, let us celebrate Water, Earth, and Sky with three artists using a variety of subjects and materials as follows: view ceramic artist Courtney Mattison’s large scale coral reefs, Jenny Hutchinson’s colored pencil and mixed media works of trees, and Allen Grindle’s  woodcuts and linocuts of birds.

Ambitious, determined, committed, professional. “On a mission” is how I would describe artist, advocate, activist Courtney Mattison (yes, I use this word to describe her physically demanding, wide-stretching work). With degrees in marine ecology and ceramic sculpture along with environmental studies, her large-scale pieces are at once compelling, beautiful and tragic in revealing to us the dire situation of our coral reefs vis-à-vis climate change. Read all about it and see for yourself. It is a privilege to share her heartfelt and inspiring art with you.

Courtney Mattison Artist Statement

I create enormous and intricate ceramic sculptural works inspired by the beauty and fragility of marine life in response to human-caused threats. I sculpt hollow forms by pinching together coils of clay and use simple tools to texture pieces by hand, often poking thousands of holes to mimic the repetitive growth of coral colonies. Hundreds of individual pieces are finished and fired using a color palette of glazes that I have developed to reflect the vibrant tones and textures of healthy marine invertebrate communities, often juxtaposed against white glazes to emphasize the stark contrast of coral bleaching on reefs stricken by climate change. It is essential that the medium of my work be ceramic, as calcium carbonate happens to be both a glaze ingredient and the compound precipitated by corals to sculpt their stony structures. Not only does the chemical makeup of my work parallel that of a natural reef, but porcelain tentacles and the bodies of living corals share a sense of fragility that compels observers to look but not touch.

Courtney Mattison Bio

Internationally recognized artist and ocean advocate, Courtney Mattison, handcrafts intricate and large-scale sculptural works that visualize climate change through the fragile beauty of marine life. Her background in marine conservation science informs her work, which has been commissioned for permanent collections including those of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta and Lindblad Expeditions’ National Geographic Endurance ship. Her exhibition history includes solo shows at the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, the U.S. Department of Commerce headquarters, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and ICA San Diego/North, where she was Artist in Residence. Curated group exhibitions include “Fragile Earth” at the Brandywine Museum of Art and “Beijing 2022” at the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in China. In 2020, the United Nations Postal Administration published Mattison’s work on a stamp to commemorate Earth Day. Her work has been featured on the covers of American Craft, Nature, Beaux Arts and Brown Alumni magazines, and by Smithsonian Magazine, Good Morning America, Oprah Magazine and BBC World Service.