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Mysterious Purpose: The Life and Art of Susan Harris


It’s a common trope, the artist who tells you they began their career at an early age, attracting the accolade of adults when they were still preschoolers, or executing their first masterpiece on the dining room wall, to the—slightly proud—dismay of their parents. There was no such beginning for Susan Harris, professor of ceramics at Southern Utah University, who came to her craft well into adulthood. In fact, had it not been for a genetic mutation passed on by her Dutch ancestors, Harris might never even have touched clay. . .

Read the artist profile in the October 2015 edition of 15 Bytes.

The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.

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  1. Harris is a Utah treasure, no an American treasure. Her pots belong in the mortuary caverns of long lost royalty and the kitchen cabinets of each of us plebeians. Perhaps, and this is pure speculation, her sense of hearing heightened her sense of vision. Whatever the case, her rare skills, earthiness, and refined sense of narrative culminate in vessels that are as rich in lore and form as the reliquaries of Irish saints. Take care of this artist, Utah. Make sure that her work fills the shelves of your many museums, and the homes of your many collectors, and the kitchens of your many foodies.

  2. I wish 15 Bytes had a “Like” hand (not) so that I could easily, lazily express total agreement with what the much-respected Peter S. Briggs, above, had to say about Harris and her elegant and eloquent work. She is, indeed, a treasure. Beyond my means, but pots worth longing for! Thank you, Shawn Rossiter, for an enlightening portrait of this artist.

  3. Conceptually speaking, the handle of a utilitarian object marks the transition from the user’s body to the exterior world. It’s fascinating that in Susan Harris’s works, small animals often dwell on this boundary. I don’t mean to put words in the artist’s mouth (or hands?), so I want to stress that my response may have nothing to do with her conscious intent. But for me, these tiny, natural gems, like snails and tortoises and rabbits, remind those who see or touch these vessels that the world beyond the fingertips isn’t all dead matter. Drawn from a singing universe, the things we put in pots were either alive, like foodstuffs, or essential parts of life, like salt.

    A further thought is that the joint between handle and vessel marks the pivot point between intention and execution, so natural beings, autonomous and independent of the one employing the vessel, symbolize the end of absolute control and the beginning of interaction with the world beyond.

    Just a couple of responses to these exquisite and eloquent works.

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