I grew up in a rural farming community with a tradition of hard work and little need of formal education beyond 8th grade. I was the first in my family to graduate high school and attend college. In many ways, I was initially ill equipped to lead the life of a college art professor. Assuming the aura of sage refinement often associated with those in academia has always seemed elusive, and exploring my role as an educator and artist is still a work in progress.
In the simplest terms my work is about questioning. I tend to question everything and doubt the answer. I am not sure why I am this way, "I was born in Missouri, the Show Me State," is my general answer. I learned quickly in public education to temper my questions, and accept answers for what they are. In the studio, I have freedom to question and doubt. While individual works may deal with specific subject matter, the underlying structure is questioning the nature of relationships. What happens if I do this or that to a material, or place one object adjacent another? I am constantly working out the elements of a composition, balancing what I know of furniture design and other functional crafts with fine art practices. When I have provided enough answers via the "art object," I question if I was asking the right things in the first place. Then comes a period of destruction, dismantling, or taking apart. Through this process I come to terms with my inquisitive nature. I revel in it, and during a cycle of creation and destruction, arrive at an answer I can live with. When making a successful piece, walking the line between its content and form, I realize how interconnected my practice is with all aspects of my life.
My influences are as varied as the way I piece my work together. I take great pleasure discovering other artists' work, analyzing how they are perceived, and taking what I need from them. In general I borrow my historical perspective, sense of craft, conceptual flexibility, playfulness, and connection to materials from the likes of Marcel Duchamp, Anthony Gormley, David Nash, and Leonardo da Vinci. This is by no means a definitive statement, but it is an effective introduction to my work and myself.
Born in 1962, Clifford Tresner spent most of his early years in eastern Illinois and western Indiana. He earned a BFA from Indiana State University and an MFA in sculpture from The University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS. After spending a few years serving as an adjunct professor and shop supervisor at Memphis College of Art, Tresner found a home at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, where he currently serves as the Art Program Coordinator. Tresner’s many awards and honors include the Louisiana Arts Fellowship, the second-place award in the 7th Annual Florida Outdoor Competition, Lakeland, FL, Northeast Louisiana’s 2008 “Artist of the Year”, and recently, a purchase prize for large-scale public art at Delta State University, Cleveland MS.
About the exhibit:
The exhibition, “Notes from the Road, exit 6A” is part of a series of exhibitions developed while traveling. For me, travel is a great time to think. Naturally my thoughts turn toward resolving studio problems. These thoughts become notes, and the notes become an integral part of resolving the work.
This exhibition includes sculpture, drawing, and painting. Sculpturally, my work ranges from freestanding sculpture and pedestal objects, to more intimate small-scale works presented on the wall. The primary materials I work with are wood and steel. In terms of painting, I work with cold wax medium, oil paint bars, and paint on canvas. I constantly draw and sketch (note taking) as part of both processes. The sculptures and paintings are tangible manifestation of the initial notes.
Artist’s Statement (extended)
It seems my journey in life has been one of seeking how and where I fit in society. My work reflects this ongoing search. I build, carve, paint, scrape, find, place, or otherwise physically alter materials to discover how objects fit, interact, and conform to a given physical space. Through this process I contemplate issues concerning conformity within a community.
This artistic process is a very personal process. I would like to include the viewing audience as part of this process. To that end I encourage the audience to manipulate and rearrange objects, (in select pieces) as they feel best reflects their own personal aesthetic. I would encourage the engaged participant to contemplate, question, and make decisions, while considering the larger question of how and where they fit in society.