“I always joke that I like animals better,” says Stone, a ceramicist who also serves as the studio director at Stray Cat Studio in Beaver Falls.
This preference informs much of her work and traces back to her childhood in Ellington, Conn., a farming community where she remembers tractors holding up traffic and cows crossing the road. She spent much of her life working with horses, including rescuing and rehabilitating neglected racehorses in Baltimore, Md., where she went to school at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and in Alberta, Canada, where she also came face to face with the beef industry (she recalls seeing “miles of miles of slaughterhouses”).
Her latest exhibition, Rose Colored Glasses – now on view at Sweetwater Center for the Arts through Sept. 7 – continues this fascination with animals and looks at our complicated relationship with them.
“I feel like my work was always originally dark because there is so much beauty in our relationships with animals, but there’s also a lot of questions I have and problems that need to be addressed,” says Stone.
The collection includes new model-like ceramic sculptures featuring animals as characters in a “naive two-dimensional narrative world of childlike doodles.” While the exhibit is described as “playful” and “tongue in cheek," Stone says the works explore a variety of questions, from how the roles of animals have changed over time, especially with the growth of the factory farming industry, to how their treatment aligns with how humans treat each other.
“While we think we’re really different from [animals], we’re totally not,” says Stone.
“That scale puts you in a position of ownership that’s really fun to play with,” she says.
The comparison to Breyer horses - which are valued for their depictions of the equine ideal - ends there, however, as Stone wanted to move away from a level of perfection she felt diminished the impact of her work.
“I was perfecting them so much that it looked like something you’d buy at Walmart for a kid,” says Stone. “It definitely lost its soul … It wasn’t alive.”
She then focused more on defining ligaments and muscles that she believed would “show the animals in action and give them some more personality.”
Ultimately, Stone hopes her art addresses big questions surrounding animal and human rights without coming off as scolding or bleak.
“I want people to enjoy the experience and find peace and joy in it while approaching a bigger conversation,” says Stone.
Rose Colored Glasses at Sweetwater Center for the Arts. Continues through Sept. 7. 200 Broad St., Sewickley. Free members/$5 non-members. sweetwaterartcenter.org