Whale of a tail
Linda S. Fitz Gibbon
“I am inspired by the genre of still life, the California ceramic funk movement and the 16th century portrait painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo.”
These artistic styles stir Linda S. Fitz Gibbon to fill the world with her own vivid, funky ceramic sculptures. Amid the pale plastered walls at the Northwest Reno Library, bright colors from her creations scream.
This Yale University graduate’s work has been shown in solo shows, group exhibitions and private collections across the United States. With a double major in music and art history, Fitz Gibbon finds motivation and stimulation through her other interests, as well.
“I am inspired to create by nature, music, color, words and their multiple meanings, themes in literature and art history, and other artists.” When she started working in clay, Fitz Gibbon used it to the advantage of her interests in music, art and literature.
“I was able to combine, rather than feel torn between, my various interests,” she explains.
The result is imaginative pieces of hand-built and wheel-thrown ceramics in varying proportions that feature fruit, vegetables, water, cups and representations of life and its surroundings. Pieces are made from rolled-out slabs, coils, pinched shapes or pots, hollowed-out clumps of clay, or a combination of these ceramic techniques. The lengthy process of sketching, modeling, coloring, drying and firing can take up to a couple of months to complete, and Fitz Gibbon usually works on just one or two pieces at a time.
“Making art is a way to try to understand and interpret the meaning of my life and how I fit into the world around me,” she says.
Fitz Gibbon’s soft-spoken tone is suggested in the delicate treatment of images in her pieces, such as in the Cup Runneth Over series: “[This series] is about life being full to the brim and overflowing. It is an expression of the creative and destructive forces at play.”
Her Cup series is more color-driven than her other works. Each piece is an oversized ceramic cup that has been “literally run over and stepped on.” Diverse elements have then been added to each smashed vessel. In the “Cup Runneth Over: It’s a Fluke,” a three-dimensional black-and-white whale’s tail plunges into a brightly orange-colored, collapsed cup. The double-entendre title of the piece (a fluke is the flat double end of a whale tail) is representative of the overall quirkiness and playfulness in all Fitz Gibbon’s work. Titles are important in all her pieces.
The “Fluke” piece was inspired by a documentary film about the humpback whale: “I was amazed by the beauty, gracefulness and power of the whales surfacing—breaking up through the unknown depths of the ocean, arching and diving back down.” The piece encourages the viewer to think about risk taking and diving in head first. Fitz Gibbon says people have to have faith and take leaps.
In “Coming Out of My Shell,” a symmetrical flesh-colored hand with intricately detailed nails and knuckles emerges from a giant peach-colored conch shell. The gigantic shell conceals the theoretical person who hides in its interior. With trepidation, a life slowly emerges from solitude, revealing only its fingers and hand. This movement is captured like a frightened crab slowly creeping out from the darkness of its armor. It’s another metaphor for how Fitz Gibbon believes people should approach life.
“If my work can strike a chord within someone else," she says, "then it reverberates and takes on a life of its own."