Porcelain is usually associated with delicate, ornate objects from a more traditional era; but, in the hands of Brock DeBoer, it's a beautiful vehicle for the preservation of memory. The Los Angeles-based sculptor produces beautiful ceramic pieces inspired by common contemporary objects, such as a basketball or a lunch box, creating a highly contrasting marriage of form and material.
DeBoer first got into sculpting with porcelain in 2008, and describes the moment he finally got to develop his own porcelain body as the turning point in his practice. “Gaining experience and knowledge with this material led me to really love working with it because of its incredible beauty yet challenging working characteristics,” the artist told My Modern Met. “This challenge with the material is something I love because it forces you to not be complacent and really stay sharp and pay attention.”
By bringing together two seemingly dissonant aesthetics—the ordinary items and the elegant porcelain—DeBoer speaks to the way we immortalize our thoughts and experiences. “There is something about preserving a memory and oftentimes we are able to draw upon those memories through a special object or image,” he explains. “With porcelain being one of the most archival materials combined with this idea of preserving these tangible memories and objects is what initially drew me into these specific pieces.”
For him, these items symbolize growing up in the 80s and 90s in South Dakota. “With this idea of preservation, most of these objects from this golden era for myself weren’t built to last or saw such heavy use that they didn’t stand a chance,” DeBoer says. “And just like the sneakers over time they tend to just crumble. So having the ability to not only capture but preserve that feeling is what I really love to express through my artwork.”
When coming up with new pieces, the ceramicist finds inspiration in life experiences, both past and present, as well as the evolution of porcelain itself. “I have always been fascinated with history and especially the history of ceramics and how this material has been coveted throughout time. There is also a lot of inspiration taken from my surroundings like the payphones all across LA to the detritus strewn across the desert in its sun-baked rusty skin.”
No two processes are the same, and DeBoer explains that the creation time for each piece varies wildly. “Every piece has its ups and downs with complexity and executing the level of detail or an intricate pattern can take much longer on some compared to others,” he says. “It is hard to put a set amount of time on just one piece because there are so many steps in my process and many pieces at all different stages all of the time. To give you an idea, some of the molds I make of the subjects can be two pieces and some can end up being 30 pieces. But the mold that was only two pieces may require more work to sand and prepare for the first firing than the 30 pieces alternative.”
For now, the artist is working on a small exhibit opening later this year in New York, as well as a big commercial collaboration coming out in early 2024. DeBoer also has some edition releases planned and a large solo show in Portland in October 2024.