Tanya Batura

I learned about Tanya’s work through JAUS, an art gallery in West Los Angeles, earlier this year and quickly made my way to following her on social media. Her journey into the arts began early in grade school as teachers would allow her to stay inside during recess so she could color and draw. In high school, she decided she wanted to pursue small metalworking and jewelry design–that is, until she reached college where she nixed design but kept working with clay. Originally from Windsor, Connecticut, she received her BFA from the University of Washington in Seattle and went on to UCLA to pursue her MFA.

Tanya found her way into teaching after her professor from UCLA, Adrian Saxe, contacted her looking to help fill teaching positions throughout Los Angeles. Though it wasn’t initially something she saw herself doing, she stated, “…I have been teaching for ten years now, and I think that I have grown into the position… I really enjoy working with the students, and feel that it provides a great balance to the solitude of working in the studio. Working with dynamic students can be quite invigorating, and gets the creative juices flowing.” ​
Getting these juices flowing can be difficult for anyone using any medium. I asked her about her relationship with ceramics. I was curious about the pros and cons. She explained that clay can get heavy, it needs a lot of space for storing, can get costly in regards to equipment and materials and has a tendency to fall into unexpected situations when put into the kiln, a technique that requires some knowledge of chemistry. “It is a fickle material that is fragile and strong at the same time. Until pretty recently there was a stigma that came along with working in clay, it was not seen as fine art within the context of the greater art world.”  She also explained that working with clay can be sexy, and that it has endless possibilities.​
Who or what are your inspirations?
There were a handful of early experiences that deeply inspired my creative interests. I attended Robert Mapplethorpe’s retrospective “the Perfect Moment” in 1988. I visited the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia a year later. The artwork of Adrian Saxe was hugely influential with inspiring me to pursue a career in clay. I also really love minimalism, specifically the work of Donald Judd.What is your creative process? Do you have a sketchbook you brainstorm in?
I am not a sketcher, and I don’t like to make models. I work completely from my head. Sometimes I have very specific ideas as I start, and sometimes I just begin building and allow the work to take focus as I proceed.Looking at your Archives, each sculpture has its own emotion or personality. How do you come up with so many to depict?
Although my work is seldom described as subtle, I feel that the expressions and emotions that you are referring to are a study in subtleties. I think gesture also plays a huge role in how these figures are perceived. I think my work is less about displaying a specific emotion or personality and more about the viewer’s own perceptions and emotions when viewing it.

There is a lot of texture and movement in your busts. What are some of your most used tools?
The most recent works rely on a variety of tools for their mark making capabilities. The first pierced piece in this series was made using a clay tool called a needle tool, it looks like a big needle with a handle, moderately sharp. I then moved on to a box cutter and a large serrated classical sculpture tool that I never could seem to find a use for. Also, the moisture level of the clay played a big role in how the marks looked. In earlier works I world occasionally carve wood grain into truncated planes. I see these marks as being more purposeful than what I traditionally think of as texture.Your work has evolved quite a bit, looking back a year or so. But it’s also still so cohesive. In what ways have you and your works evolved?
​I see my method of working as a circle rather than a straight line. I draw on a large pool of things that interest me, and I keep adding things in. An important new evolution in my work is the piercing of the exterior, as well as playing around with the balance of creation and destruction. I will often create things knowing that I will later destroy part or most of it. I am interested by the act of creating something beautiful, and at times perfect, and then taking it beyond that.

Though you create to fulfill your desire to delve deep into the process, I’m sure you wonder what your audience is thinking. What kind of responses have you received?
Some people see my work as being dead, and therefore disturbing. Some individuals see people that are sleeping. Some people find it beautiful and seductive. Some people see all these things at once. I do not try to control or dictate what the audience is experiencing. If they are moved on some level, then I feel the work was successful.

Tanya has mentioned experimenting with casting clay into bronze in the near future and is currently working on incorporating photography into her work—both of which I can’t wait to see! Thank you Tanya, for taking the time to tell us about your work! You can check out her work at tanyabatura.com and follow her on Instagram @tanyabatura