Brightly colored columns stand throughout the industrial site of Mission Clay Building Products on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona.1 Their presence, amidst outdoor horizontal stacks of terra-cotta pipe, signals that artists are at work on eight-foot extruded clay pillars.2 These sculptures and the mass-produced industrial pipe come from four different clay caches found in select regions of Arizona. The mineral clays are mixed to create a stiff, muddy substance that is both suitable for industrial uses and adaptable as a sculptural medium.
The large, solitary pipes resemble architectural columns. Its universal form lends itself to artistic expression while referencing free-standing pillars. Not structurally functional in the traditional sense – although they are load bearing – the sculptures serve as artistic records created by experimental and experienced mark-makers. Artists, who work in this challenging pre-fabricated format, summon innovation and persistence. Recently, Tom Franco, of Oakland, California, said this endeavor demands “a commitment that forces you to expand [your ideas] and think bigger as an artist.”3