Photo by Rose Lincoln
For sculptor Weronika Zaluska, art is a collaborative process. She doesn’t create work with other artists, but rather thinks of her large ceramic sculptures as her partners.
“There’s a back-and-forth relationship between me and the piece. The piece has a lot of weight and it has this physical presence,” she says of her sculptures, which weigh up to 100 pounds. “It’s almost a dialogue, because I’m trying to shape it, but it won’t let me do anything I want. At some point, it takes on a life of its own.”
Zaluska, a museum attendant at the Harvard University Art Museums, has been creating ceramic sculpture for 10 years. She began in 1992, when she came to the United States as an exchange high school student from her native Poland, and she studied ceramics at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the prestigious New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. After a two-year hiatus from ceramics, she’s sparked a new passion for clay.
“I have a very strong connection with the material: the touching of clay, the squeezing of clay, the maintenance of it. It has a rhythm which I really like,” she says. Having mastered the engineering challenges of creating such large works (“I finally feel like I can figure out how to make anything,” she says), Zaluska can concentrate on engaging her sculptures in conversation.
“I’m letting the piece really talk back to me, not trying to control it too much,” she says, “so it’s more directly coming from my subconscious, what my hands do naturally.”
In addition to her own studio in Somerville, Zaluska uses the Harvard Ceramics Program’s studio in Allston, on which she lavishes praise for its 24-hour access and supportive community of artists from all walks of Harvard life. She takes advantage of the tuition assistance plan benefit through her job at the museums to offset the studio’s fees.
Working among the University’s impressive art collection “stimulates my thinking about art,” she says. “It keeps my motor going, it keeps it more dynamic.”
What’s more, guarding art and creating art share, for her, important qualities. “The essence of the job is paying attention, looking, observing,” says Zaluska. “It is connected with my sculpture. It’s one of the most important things [as an artist], to pay attention.”