Summer Zickefoose
Artist Statement

It is called the middle of nowhere; observed from an interstate.
The sticks, the hicks, the mind-numbing boredom.
The absence of culture, of progress, of significance.

The rural, American landscape is often the setting both literally and figuratively for my investigations as an artist. This landscape is representative of its human counterparts and their codes of language, ethics, traditions, and behavioral traits. As with any archaeology, there is the place, its culture, and the objects and materials used by that culture. I believe these objects and materials hold within them a multitude of secrets.

She watched the lights from across the road
to see when they went to bed.
She maintained the regiments of a controlled lifestyle.
This somehow balanced the uncertainty of weather,
of markets, of survival.

The forms of my work might range from ceramics, sculpture, installation, performance, or video. Americana and the art traditions that correspond with it are woven throughout my projects. Responding to these conventions, I am able to evaluate established identities of rural culture. In a reinvented vernacular, layers of history are revealed and evolving rural customs are unearthed.

He always said,
in regards to the persistence of jello salads,
that they weren’t good enough to be a dessert
and weren’t healthy enough to be a salad.

A fragment from a Midwestern woman’s diary embellishes the surface of a ceramic cup, which is then filled with cockleburs. The surface of a family christening gown is embroidered with hair, two generations later. An old, circular saw blade is cut into the pattern of a doily. The familiar is tilled and rearranged. I exploit the decorative and accessible qualities of commonplace objects, then pair them with the more grotesque, visceral experiences of the body. An overlooked and ordinary chocolate chip cookie can, in the course of a performance, be revealed as both cultural icon and social tool. The corporeal and the subversive combine, conjuring honest dualities of the comfortable and awkward, the conventional and progressive, the distressing and humorous that are components of nearly every family, culture, and place.

He knows this land very well. He commented once
on the existence of a rut, but he doesn’t know how to leave.
In fact, there is no other place than this.
The familiarity comforts and smothers him simultaneously.

Summer Zickefoose is an interdisciplinary artist residing in northeast Ohio. She grew up amidst the square miles and cornfields of Iowa. The smells of fresh cut hay, horse manure, and hog pens lodged permanently in her subconscious have, in one way or another, led to artwork that is deeply influenced by Midwestern and rural American culture and landscape.

Zickefoose received a BA in Art History and a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Iowa in 2000, and received a MFA in Multimedia Art and Ceramics from the University of Florida in 2004. Her sculptures, performances, videos, and installations have been exhibited both nationally and internationally, most notably at the Athens Institute for Contemporary Art in Athens, Georgia, the Golden Thread Gallery in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the Raccolte Frugone museum in Genoa, Italy. Summer has been an artist-in-residence at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City, Nebraska, Flaxart Studios in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and at the Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine.