First-Year Graduates

A decorative ceramic vase

Jacqueline Saepoff

I am interested in flipping the power dynamic that exists between artist and material; rather than acting as master and manipulator, I prefer to collaborate with my medium and allow the voice and agency of the material to show through. Inspired by my mystical Jewish upbringing, as well as my lifelong exposure to holistic and ayurvedic principles, I interpret an urgency in my body, similar to an inhaled and held breath, as a nonverbal communication that I am having with the material. I experience the living water that is in my material to be speaking directly to the water in my body, guiding my hand to the shape the material wants to become. 

Water holds secrets and truths and is willing to share them with anyone who will listen. My practice is one of listening. I listen to the material, I listen for whatever truths it wants to tell me today, and I listen for what it wants to become. I do this by touch, by hearing the material whisper through my nerves and veins, “notice this” “I want to be bigger/smaller/smoother in this spot.” I feel these things deep inside of me as a building and often sudden urgency, like I inhaled and have been holding my breath.

Much of my work is along the theme of return by way of healing and vice versa. There is a visiting, where I am an observer, partially removed from the experience of living, just here to see what this life is about, and there is a returning, to truth and to who I am, where I come from, and why I am here. My intuitive carving and gestural mark making lead to truths. The final result often appears to be abstracted ideas of what humans consider sublime or natural, but what is true about them is their genuineness. They are not representations of the objects they resemble, but objects themselves that have the effect of often tricking the viewer into seeing a realistic representation of something familiar, when in fact the realness they are attracted to is the life and eternal truth emanating from the genuineness of the gesture.  The piece itself is quite abstracted, in that it is made up entirely of gestures and is quite different from the natural object the viewer thinks they are seeing. I trust the material to guide my hand to the mark it wants to have. The gesture is loving and generous.

Ceramic art piece

Ava Carney

Ava Carney is an interdisciplinary artist and ceramicist interested in investigating play and perception as pathways for resilience. In her practice, clay enables slippages between self, material, and object via its mutability and manifests artifacts from the interior and transformative realm of the imagined.

Ava received a BFA from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 2017. She is based in Chicago and a current MFA candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). She has held residencies at the Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, Cité Internationalé des Arts, the Chicago Park District, and YoungArts. Ava has received awards from the Kosciuszko Foundation, the Nova Institute for Health, and YoungArts.

Since 2019, Ava has worked in public service and community engagement, where she coordinates arts programming for Chicago youth in the Teen Services & YOUmedia department at Chicago Public Library.

An art piece

Matthew Kaufman

Matthew Kaufman is a queer Jewish artist currently residing in Chicago, Illinois. Focusing on discreet parts of the body, Kaufman uses clay to create theatrical sculptures exploring conversations of humor and self-discomfort. By isolating and hyperbolizing body parts, he examines the different registers in which his body is taken up and given significance. The result is a compelling method by which Kaufman negotiates his own bodily insecurity and awareness and puts these affective states in conversation with his viewers. He received a BA in Studio Art and Psychology from Brandeis University and is currently enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

A collection of ceramic sculptures on a table

Vivianne Siqueiros

I am married to clay not only for the short-term memory she holds, but especially her crystallized permanence; a resilience to persevere through history. In fine arts, I am enamored by connections between pre-hispanic and contemporary pots and pop-influenced performance or social practices. In my work, I focus on intentional healing through self reflection of social, political, and personal narratives through a Latine-Futurism lens. After decades of ancestors passing down grief and pain, I crave a different ending for my generation and our descendants. By focusing creative energy towards dispelling generational trauma, I intend to instill peace in its place with joyful anecdotes of my queer Mexican identity.

In tying together my influences and material choices, I create sculptures that embody the narratives for future joy I manifest, wearables as a way to communicate intimate details of my personal life, and interactive sculptures serving to form empathy through social practice. I am a person that observes and welcomes connection for a greater purpose. Creating community through the arts serves as a spark to bring people together, and I am looking for ways to catalyze moments of connection to build sustained BIPOC and queer abundance in the arts.

Vivianne Siqueiros is a ceramic artist currently based in Sacramento, CA. She received her BFA from Boise State University in 2017. Since then, she has taught community art classes in Boise and Sacramento, worked as a Youth Development Specialist with Peace Corps Morocco, and served with AmeriCorps on a national level. Siqueiros is dedicated to building community within the clay field. In her studio practice she creates bright sculptures and socially engaging installations and wearables. She is a current MFA candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).

A ceramic sculpture of a head

Maya Jackson

I am a ceramic artist whose work is both functional and sculptural dealing with ideas of identity, ancestry, and nature. My personal experiences as an African-American bi-racial woman in the US coupled with what I’ve learned about the lived experiences of others, notably through my work at non-profit organizations, inspire me to create art that conveys my perspective on the world or speaks to societal issues. I come from a privileged background and this has allowed me to see the many disparities in our society from a unique angle. As someone who takes up space where other black women do not, while simultaneously being silenced in privileged spaces, I am driven to make ceramics more accessible.  

My work explores the relationship between the body, nature, and disruptive forces, inspired by my lived experience. What began as a goal to create a planter to hold my not-yet-potted houseplants evolved into an exploration of my ancestry, research on the history of how my facial features came to be, and a call to mindfulness. My work is an ode to Black womanhood and my forms often combine elements of the natural world, like plants, to celebrate Black hair in its natural state. The incorporation of plants in my sculptures not only represents the beauty, complexity, and diversity of Black hair, but also Black thought. I investigate how unnatural and disruptive forces like systems of oppression interrupt the beauty of nature, often creating alternative depictions of beauty.

A person holding a ceramic fish head in front of their face

Seunghee Lee

My work points to 'artificiality'. The process begins with a question. Even after having received art education for about 10 years in Korea, I always questioned the artificial process and wanted to get out of the typical process. So I started working by comparing the fish on display for sale to my life, which reminded me of what I felt and questioned all this time; living my life to meet other people's standards was not so different from packaged fish, so I had to get out of it. The representative work for showing the theme is 'Fish Market'. ‘Fish market' brings ordinary objects which viewers can see easily in their daily lives and which are transformed into artworks and placed in a special place called an exhibition hall. As a result it evokes artificial moments that viewers pass by indifferently in daily lives. In each artwork, artificial moments are created in the formalized processes of making fish and humans prepared to the needs of others, often suggesting a sense of helplessness. I was influenced by a philosopher named Zhuangzi. According to Zhuangzi, since not applying artificiality means leaving things as they are, artificiality should not be applied for any justification in order for all things to maintain their integrity. However, it is difficult to find anything without the touch of human artificiality in human civilization. The point of my work is to superficially create an artificial state, but paradoxically, to essentially pursue a natural state away from the artificial state.

Second Year Graduates

Image of a ceramic mug

Eddie Forman

I have been comparing my making process to that of music making.  Sometimes you make quiet music, improvise, or play loud rock.  Currently, I am exploring functional ware while simultaneously making non-functional sculpture.  This practice allows artistic freedom and the integrity to be able to change gears in order to play loudly or softly for each body of work.

An artist’s piece depicting multiple faces covered by plastic, over a rough bust

Makayla Lindsay

Makayla Lindsay (she/her) is an interdisciplinary artist living in Chicago. Her work deals with themes of emotional aggression, disembodiment, and dislocation. Subsequently, at times her work is the opposite, it is a search for peace, of consciousness, and the act of letting go. Makayla received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of South Florida in 2021 and is currently earning her Masters of Fine Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  

Three green abstract ceramic pieces resembling a chair and ottoman. There is a blanket with faces drawn on it behind it.

Rachel Heibel

Rachel Heibel (she/her) is a ceramic artist based in Chicago working towards her MFA in ceramics from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Before moving to Chicago she began her practice at The University of Michigan where she investigated the intersection between sculpture and function, while incorporating aspects from her sustainability studies. She utilizes traditional processes of hand-building with clay to create objects that bring natural forms into indoor spaces. Her work is a representation of her making sense of the world around her through making. 

A colorful, abstracted closeup of a ceramic piece

Tyler Capri Wynne

I consider myself a multimedia artist but ceramics is one of the primary mediums that I‘ve been working with consistently from 2019 to now. The subject of my pieces is animals and flowers as representations of intense emotion and an exploration in abstraction. I’ve always been inspired by fantasy, mythology, folklore and horror in terms of how animals are portrayed and represented. I've always been interested in how animals are used to represent different types of ideals and morality important to the culture that resides near them despite animals not having those concepts in nature. I use that concept in my work with the animals becoming avatars to what emotions I want to convey in a form that is both foreign and unfamiliar. In terms of process, I do make hand built pieces but most of my pieces have a thrown component that has hand built elements made around it to create a full piece. I mostly glaze using low fire glazes. I use a spray booth for application and sometimes use stains, underglazes or slips as an underpainting for the piece if I don’t want the clay body to show. I want my work to capture people’s attention with the color schemes I choose and the liberties I take with the forms. I want my work to feel alive and compel people to take a closer look at the detail of the surface treatment. I want to bring the internal to the external, to bring beauty to the grotesque and to connect with the audience in a way that cannot be conveyed with words.

Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.