Penney Bidwell, ceramic sculpture from the carnival

Penney Bidwell

I came into the world on April Fools’ Day, 1968, and was born into the carnival. My mother had been an accomplished ballerina turned sideshow dancer, and my father was a third generation carnie on one of the largest travelling carnivals. My great grandmother was the tattooed lady in the early 1900’s. My grandmother told stories of discrimination and rejection by society–carnies were like gypsies and people paid money to see them but did not want them in their shops or homes. These stories touched me deeply.

I have always been interested in the human experience and the human psyche. After completing my Masters degree in psychology, I realized a deeper ambition resided in the arts. After attending a sculpture class in 2006 I realized I had found my vehicle for expression.

I strive to capture the intimate and internal experience in my artwork. My figures each stand alone, even when part of a group. Each character emerges from the clay directly from my subconscious–characters of imagination, past experiences, family stories, motherhood, fairy tales, and dreams. They are soulful beings, reflective of deep inner experiences: joy, sadness, pride, or embarrassment. Whatever the feeling, it is part of the experience of being human.

Technically, my sculptural pieces are made from clay and combine slips, stains, glazes, and found objects. Each sculpture is multi-fired. My intent is not to control my inspirations, but to remain open and let the imagery inspire me as it develops. My subconscious guides my hands, and the story unfolds as I work. The mystery of not knowing where a piece will take me and what I will discover is part of the process that inspires me.
Penney Bidwell
Sep 2, 2011

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