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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: We are animals

Courtney Nelson
Courtney Nelson
Courtney Nelson with some of her ceramic creations

We are animals. Ceramics artist Courtney Nelson wants to make that distinction clear in much of her work, especially in her project “Residual Beasts.” She confronts our reluctance to acknowledge ourselves as animals to deconstruct the presumption of human supremacy. Nelson works as a studio technician in the ceramics department of the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. She teaches children’s and teen classes as well as adults while pursuing her own exploration of ceramic arts, among other media.

A conversation with Courtney Nelson

“All throughout my life, I have very much related to animals,” Nelson says. “There’s a lot of history of women being aware of predators. I try to approach my work as sort of an indistinction between man and animal, seeing ourselves as the animals that we are in a way that we can embrace it and go back into our roots and connect with nature and animals throughout our lives.”

Nelson-Ceramic Sculpture.jpeg
Courtney Nelson
Courtney Nelson
Ceramic sculpture by Courtney Nelson

Nelson says she can’t remember a time when she wasn’t interested in art. She attended Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids before transferring to Western Michigan University.

“At that time, I was pursuing a painting degree when I took a ceramics course and fell madly in love with it,” she says. “I had to convince myself to leave the ceramics studio every day because I just didn’t want to. After about a year of that, I realized I didn’t have to convince myself to leave. I needed to embrace it.”

At that point, Nelson switched her degree to ceramics and did some residencies, including one at the KIA as well as internships to explore her new direction more deeply. She became a clay mixer at the KIA, then a studio technician, before her appointment as an instructor of ceramics. Nelson also works in the Kirk Newman Art School office.

“I now run all our registration, I assist with class building and creating, and so much more, including teaching,” Nelson says.

Nelson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at the Gwen Frostic School of Art at Western Michigan University in 2016. She lives in Richland, Michigan.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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