Allen K. Littlefield
WORKS IN THE EXHIBITION (PART 3)
BIO & ARTIST'S STATEMENT
To be posted...
by Shayanna Roman
Allen K. Littlefield, a Hudson Valley ceramicist and former teacher, has had his art work displayed all over the U.S. and in Europe, but he first learned what clay could really do here in New Paltz during his graduate studies. Littlefield uses ceramics to express the human condition, seeking to touch the lives of others through his primitive inspired and psychological themed pieces. His work will be featured in the Wired Gallery’s upcoming “Golden Age of New Paltz” show in High Falls, New York.
How did you end up in New Paltz?
My family settled in Wilkes-Barre when I was in third grade. When I got older, I did construction work and hated it. When I turned 18, I was drafted and joined the National Guard. I eventually decided to go to officer candidate school. There I realized most of the guys were college graduates and I wasn’t, so I thought there was no reason to not go to school myself. I went to Wilkes College and majored in art history. Interviewers came in and the Kingston school system had an opening for an art teacher. So I came up to Woodstock, looked the place over and fell in love with it. I later moved to New Paltz where I eventually got a graduate assistant job and my Master of Fine Arts.
What was your favorite part about teaching?
One thing I always told my kids was you can’t make anything if you can’t make a mistake.
I spent a lot of time pondering how to make a lesson clear and challenging and then give the kids enough leeway to run with it. The satisfying part was when I saw the kids coming up with their own answers without a school solution.
How did you get into ceramics?
I despised ceramics at first because it was too floppy for me. I like hard things like jewelry, painting, and drawing. But for graduate school, I had to take a course and there were three choices. I put ceramics down as my last choice but everything else was taken. Ken Green, the teacher at the time, got me interested in what clay could do. I learned how to throw on the potter’s wheel and became very enamored with that because I was going back to a method of precision, similar to jewelry making. Ken finally drove me off the wheel, practically with a stick, to try hand building. That’s where I found the most satisfaction as a medium of expression. That was when it clicked for me. I realized I could finally make something that was mine, completely.
What themes inspire your art?
A lot of my things right now are psychological pieces that refer to what people go through to try to discover themselves and solve personal problems. I try to come up with ideas that people can relate to so I can enrich their lives by having a piece of mine say something to them. Ancient work is also a big influence. There’s expression there that is very powerful. I’ve been very inspired by the primitive work of the Mayans, the Incas, Egyptians, Stonehenge, all of those ancient things because of their spirit.
How do you feel when someone buys your work?
It’s an incredible thrill when somebody buys what you make. All art is self-portraits. No matter what you make, it’s a self-portrait in some manner. When somebody buys your work, they’re taking a piece of you home with them. You can tell me my work is wonderful but when you buy one and take it home to live with you, I know you’re telling me the truth.
How has the craft market changed over the years?
I see a lot more of the imported things in the craft gallery now rather than the truly creative pieces. It’s more about making a living than pushing an artist. I find that a little disturbing, but I think there’s a lot of people now that are starting to come back to the natural from the machine. I think people are looking for some relief from total technology.
What advice do you have for art students?
Do what you like to do. Find a medium that you can express yourself and then stick with it. You’re going to get disappointments, but don’t we all? If you want to create art for a living, you have to come up with your own expression and have something to say. Understand why that moves you, so you can make work that can move somebody else.