Earthly Delights

Mooresville sculptor Allison Luce finds inspiration at the nexus of travel, education, and art history.

Ceramic creations from sculptor Allison Luce’s “Primoris Ortus” series are both familiar and foreign at the same time.

The artwork resembles live tropical plants of sorts. Long slender arms, curved and rounded, intertwine with floral petals and leaf-like appendages softly framing muted pastel and earth-toned stalks. Viewers are initially drawn in by their movement, their light and fragile nature. Upon closer inspection, viewers find the slightly menacing nature of their design.

“This body of work is inspired by the Garden of Eden,” Luce says, noting the series grew out of a similar body of work she named “The Serpent Tree.” “It’s about fragility of life and frailty of our existence. I love the metaphor of, ‘From dust we came and dust we return.’ We are all so fragile and here for such a short time. I’m inspired by work that has movement and dramatic lighting and reflects both history and nature.”

The Mooresville-based sculptor is known in arts circles throughout the region, and she relocated to North Carolina in 2006 from the New York City metro area. A longtime studio-artist at Clayworks (a Charlotte community pottery studio), Luce converted a section of her garage into a personal studio in 2012. Two significant tools of her trade, a kiln and slab-roller, take residence there, courtesy of Arts and Science Council Regional Artist Grants she’s received.

Her work has been featured locally at exhibitions including the Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury, Central Piedmont Community College, The Rotunda Gallery in Rock Hill, the Louise Gilbert Gallery at Mitchell Community College in Statesville,  and Charlotte’s Ciel Gallery and Elder Gallery. Last year, Luce showed a large-scale installation from her “Ancient Expanse” body of work as part of the Mint Museum’s 80 x 80 Art Show. Sharp-eyed commuters may have spied her work on I-77 just north of the South Carolina border on an ArtPop billboard in 2016.

Luce’s “Ancient Expanse” installations are comprised of hundreds of individually hand-worked pieces installed on vast walls in flowing patterns, using ceramic creations resembling shells, geodes, turtle-backs, coral, and ocean crustaceans.

Luce calls it “an exercise in insanity.” “I am excited about my first corporate collection coming up with a major installation from this series. In June, I’m installing at the Columbus (Ohio) Convention Center. It will be at least 600 pieces.”

Luce calls herself an “artist, educator, and traveler.” The latter having as much influence on her work as anything. She’s had numerous international residencies including those in Canada, Denmark, and Germany. Her travels to Italy have been particularly exhilarating.

“I’m inspired by artists like (Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo) Bernini,” says Luce. “He makes marble look like it is moving. When I was in Rome, my goal was to see as many Bernini sculptures and (Michelangelo Merisi da) Caravaggio paintings as I could.”

The well-traveled artist will get another chance for travel-related inspiration soon. Later this spring, Luce returns to Orvieto, Italy for a month to teach in a study-abroad program with Gordon College out of Boston. This is her second year leading students there, an experience she relishes.

“I feel called to work with college students,” says Luce, who also taught at Mitchell Community College.  “I love working with them and enjoy being around them. Their love of art and interest in creating art is inspiring to me, and I always learn something from them.”

For Allison Luce, learning is all part of a continual artistic journey. 

 Photos by LunahZon Photography.