Cristina Salustri

For the first fifteen years of my career as a sculptor I worked primarily in stone at Columbia University in New York City, Italy and Japan. I might have stayed on that path had an unexpected event not happened to me.

In 1979, I was diagnosed with two critical spinal conditions which required immediate surgery. I was forced to convalesce and abandon any heavy work for one year. Friends in the Ceramics Department, next door to the Sculpture Department at Columbia University’s Teachers College, encouraged me to begin exploring the clay medium while my vertebrae fused. That time proved to be providential.

After my recuperative period, I returned to stone but also didn’t completely abandon ceramics. Instead, I began to take the chiseled pieces of stone from my sculptures and press them into the wet clay, beginning my lifelong exploration into clay in conjunction with stone, which remains at the heart of my practice.

In 1999, after nearly 25 years in New York City, I moved with my husband and two children to Vermont. Fond memories of playing in the woods as a child persisted in my mind, calling into question the confines of the city in which we lived. I wanted our children to experience the same freedom to independently explore an environment without adults hovering over them. Little did I realize that this shift would free me up in ways that I could not have imagined. Within this rural space, I began to feel my soul again.

The tree-like forms of the “Of the Earth” series comes as a result of that dramatic shift in our environment. I observe and experience the landscape that surrounds me. I know the posture of each tree along my daily path, especially those with idiosyncratic shapes. Some grow in impossible oblique angles, defying gravity. Some are implausibly spindly for their soaring height.

As I make these vessels, I am acutely aware of each of their postures. I bandage them in wet gauze to try to control their bends and plumb lines. Alignment is , after all, something that I am acutely aware of.

As artists, we interpret aspects of the world around us. Inevitably, there appears a point where we depart from reality, where our handprint takes over. It is that exact moment when reality yields to transcendence and that art happens.

Cristina Salusti