My name is Maya Stansbury. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had this strong connection to the natural world and an infectious curiosity for the creatures which inhabit it. Throughout my childhood years, most of my time was spent outdoors learning about the natural world. My family always took in and nurtured strays and injured animals, which contributed to my permanent love and adoration for all living things. As an artist, I find that all my inspiration for creativity stems from the beauty of nature, for it has proven to be my lifelong muse.
With the current devastating effects of anthropogenic climate change threatening the diversity of our planet, I was inspired to produce a body of work that prioritized highlighting the beauty of some species and environments at risk of being lost. My body of work aims to create a visual appreciation for the species facing extinction, with the intention to educate audiences on their existence and on the importance of preserving our planet’s natural beauty for future generations.
By elevating environmental education through artistic expression, I aim for the audience to not only experience a material closeness to a rare lifeform but to also learn about it in an exciting, memorable format.
Through the combination of wheel throwing, sculpture, carving, and underglaze painting techniques, I build up textures and depth to capture the details and diverse characteristics of each endangered animal or environment selected. Each piece created begins with my own learning, involving in-depth research, followed by detailed study drawings, color studies, and 3D renderings.
This allows for a sense of familiarity with the subject matter, giving me more freedom for stylized expression. The renderings then become my own impression and interpretation of the animal or habitat through a variety of sculpted textures and abstracted vibrant colors. The firing processes in ceramics then allow for the fragility of the works to become stabilized, thus creating a quality of permanence for the vanishing species by preserving them within the clay.
How does the theme ‘Biosphere’ play a role in your work?
The velocity of recent human-mediated climate change has made adaptation and survival unlikely for many species, resulting in their endangerment and extinction.
My body of work aims to create a visual appreciation for the species facing extinction, to educate audiences on their existence, and on the importance of preserving our planet’s diversity for future generations.
These artworks aim to educate through the sentimentalization of the beauty vanishing from our natural world. Scientific journals and conservation outreaches connect with broad audiences, but dry scientific jargon often makes the information intimating. The mode of communication commonly used is often not captivating enough to secure the viewers’ attention.
Art as a tool in activism acts as a visual transmission that communicates complex information in a simple, engaging, and memorable way. Art invokes a uniquely enticing presence, which not only builds intrigue but also seeds questions within the viewer: ideally what, how, and why. This is what makes this project effective in bridging the gap between the scientific community and the general populace.
The artist creates beautiful objects as a more accessible and inviting platform for environmental education. Each piece produced reflects a high time commitment and a passion for the work, exemplified in the intricacy and detail that animate the sculpture, and “bring the animal to life”. The thrown vessels are used as a canvas upon which sculptural and painterly techniques are used to capture the essence of the species and environment.
The stunningly ornately nature of these ceramic artworks results in an aestheticized rendering of risk biodiversity. By presenting this environmental issue of mass extinction through a beautified lens, the conversations on conservation become more alluring.