On initial glance, M. Voelker’s sculptures—variously hued, carefully constructed and apparently multi-pieced—appear to be made of metal or wood, resembling extraordinary Erector Set or Lincoln Logs structures. On closer examination, however, they reveal themselves as something wholly unexpected: thoughtful, inventive ceramics, such as the rollercoaster-like “Blank Verity” or the milk-crate-devouring-a-xylophone “Arrested Suggestion.”
Meticulously, Voelker (the “M” stands for Matthew, which he forgoes professionally) slices wet clay into lines, assembles the lines into frames, then combines the frames into forms, which, he explains, “are cut and balanced as needed to engage the space the sculpture is intended to occupy.” After allowing the clay to dry for a week, Voelker places the piece into a kiln for “low firing.” Later, he spray-paints the surfaces, using a brush to address tiny areas.
“Ultimately, the clay may appear as wood or metal, because when I build with it, I treat it as such,” he says. Occasionally, he adds non-ceramic elements such as string or wood “to provide tension or achieve stability.”
Voelker, 37, began working with ceramics while earning his bachelor’s degree in art education at Towson University: “I enrolled in ceramics with no expectation that it would resonate so deeply with me.” So much so that he earned an MFA in ceramics, also at Towson, and now teaches ceramics and sculpture at Loch Raven High School.
Not surprisingly, his students’ reactions to his sculptures mix befuddlement with curiosity. “I get, ‘Is that clay?’ or ‘How did you do that?’” Voelker notes—which he turns into a teaching opportunity: “We talk about why artists make what they make and why people go to art school. And when they inevitably ask why I pursued art and teaching, I respond by saying I wanted to live a creative life.”
>>>View M. Voelker’s sculptures at mvoelkerart.squarespace.com.