In the small town of Monument, nearly 80 miles south of Boulder, there are a number of abandoned home-stays from the nineteenth century. The primitive buildings are dilapidated and unused now, just lingering relics of a time long passed. However, for Matthew Ziemke, a junior fine-arts major and avid ceramicist from Monument, the moribund houses are a source of great intrigue.
“Looking at those, they showed me the mortality of objects. I like to think about the past,” Ziemke said. “I’m drawn to art interaction in our environment. Everyday experience informs my work.”
Ziemke’s fascination with the abandoned home-stays was the genesis of his current work in ceramics.
“Right now I’m doing all hand-built sculpture. I’m looking at structures, bridges and houses. Those buildings got me interested in architectural structures and the past,” Ziemke said.
Ziemke exposed one of his recent projects, “Bridge-Bruecke Bloodline,” which explores Ziemke’s interest in bridges. The sculpture is of two halves of a bridge, the tops of which are interwoven with twine. On one half the word “Bridge” is engraved, on the other half the word “Bruecke,” which is German for bridge.
Ziemke, whose name is German, explains the piece.
“I was thinking about the general shapes of bridges, and then the idea of the bridge as a metaphor, which connects time and place,” he said.
Ziemke’s interest in ceramics began in high school, but when he came to CU, he didn’t expect to study art.
“I was originally going to be an engineer. But I discovered I didn’t really want to bother with all that, and I got more and more fascinated with the arts.”
At first, Ziemke only made functional pieces such as bowls and dishes. Eventually, he became interested in more artistic, sculptural work. He was encouraged by Christian Tedeschi, a teacher he had last year.
“He helped with the whole conversation about my work, the ideas and questions. There are always issues that come up with visual art that need to be resolved. He helped and offered lots of encouragement.”
Ziemke is also interested in exploring the theme of war. His newest project is a tall birdhouse, formed from a stack of clay coils. In the roof of the birdhouse there is a gaping hole, where eventually a missile will be sticking out.
“I was thinking of war, the idea of a culture threatening another culture,” Ziemke said.
Ziemke enjoys his creative time here at CU but is unsure about his future in ceramics.
“I’ve always wanted to work with clay, and I know that I’ll always have a studio. But being a self-sustaining sculptor is extremely demanding. I am interested in pursuing an M.F.A. in ceramics,” he said.
Ziemke sat down at a wheel and put a small lump of clay in the center. The wheel started spinning, and he began molding the clay with his hands. He made a small dent in the center of the lump, and started pulling on the sides. The gray mass soon began to take shape, and grew into a perfectly formed bowl.
“They are tearing down all those old home-stays now,” Ziemke said. “I think they’re all being used for land development.”
When he finished the bowl, Ziemke looked at his creation for a moment and then scraped it off into a bucket near the wheel. The delicate walls of the bowl collapsed back into an indistinguishable lump of clay, and Ziemke continued to clean the wheel. Perhaps that’s just the “mortality of objects,” that Ziemke was talking about.