What would you do if you saw a life-sized clay person laying on a bench in Gainesville, Florida?
That work is exactly what earned Charity White (MFA Ceramics ‘16) a spot as one of Ceramics Monthly’s Emerging Artists 2017.
White’s featured work, Prescriptive Space, is a series of bisected life-sized figures lying on divided Gainesville benches. Growing up in Chicago, White was always interested in how cities treat the homeless.
“How are our public spaces designed?” White asked. “How does that manipulate the public to exclude certain people?”
Like Chicago, Gainesville has city designs that discourage homeless people from congregating in certain areas, such as the divided benches used in White’s work. However, unlike the typical metropolitan city, Gainesville is still small enough that she was able to contact and have conversations with city employees regarding her installations.
“Being a college town allowed me to do that urban aspect but be able to contact the people,” White said. “I was able to get a lot done for my thesis.”
White said she chose UF over other graduate programs because of its teaching opportunities, which White said is very important to her, its prestigious alumni and reputation, and the professors. She liked how connected and ingrained they were in the city.
“They were all very approachable,” White said.
One of White’s favorite installations was also her first life-sized clay work. White had a statue of an old man in a chair in Bo Diddley Plaza, a common area the homeless would stay before the plaza went through renovations with the current stage.
White set up a camera to record people's interactions with the statue until it was eventually removed by city employees for being a public nuisance. However, because of the size of the city and the people White had spoken with, she was able to retrieve it.
“It gave me a better understanding of the people living in that space,” White said.
Ceramics Monthly recognized how White’s pieces engaged the surrounding community and caused people to reflect on their own values.
“It's very meaningful to be recognized by the community and by the larger ceramics world,” White said.
Check out more of White's Prescriptive Space work here.
View her work in Ceramics Monthly here.