Humanity is a prevailing theme in figurative ceramic sculptor Deborah Hodder’s work. Her most recent show, dubbed Interconnected, included multiple skin-toned figures that seemed to run together, their limbs intertwined.
“It’s about unity,” she says. “It’s about coming together and helping each other.”
Soft-spoken and taciturn, Hodder first identified as an artist in elementary school. Her mother praised her for a drawing she created in third grade. As a fifth grader, she sketched a cartoon that was confiscated by her math teacher. The teacher later returned the cartoon and Hodder illustrated the room’s bulletin boards for the rest of the year.
After working a series of art-related jobs following a stint at Glendale Community College, she earned a master’s of fine arts degree in printmaking from Arizona State University in 1992. Hodder then returned to the place where she first discovered her artistic chops: elementary school. But this go-around, she was the encouraging teacher.
“I felt inspired by children because they have this innate imagination,” Hodder says. She took a ceramics class in the mid-’90s so she could teach her students the craft and fell in love with the medium. “I just love the way the clay talks to me,” she says. “I can tell my story better in the round.” Hodder loves how forgiving clay is; if she changes her mind, she reshapes it.
After 23 years of teaching, she decided to become a full-time artist less than two years ago and is pursuing out-of-state galleries. “I feel like my life is just beginning,” she says.
View Hodder’s work at deborahhodder.com and at Five15 Arts gallery at Phoenix Center for the Arts (1202 N. Third St., Phoenix).
— Teresa K. Traverse
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