Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Pete Pinnell

Second Advisor

Margaret Bohls

Third Advisor

Eddie Dominguez

Date of this Version


Document Type



A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Fine Arts, Major: Art, Under the Supervision of Professor Peter Pinnell. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2020

Copyright 2020 P.J. Hargraves


I navigate the uncertain times we live in by creating positive, playful sculptures because focusing on joy is not only possible in times of hardship, I believe it is necessary in order to thrive. I go through life with a watchful reverence, finding beauty and hope in the abundance of life in the natural world. Using this inspiration, I reinvent and intentionally exaggerate landscapes and plant forms in clay with a freeing sense of whimsy. My fantasized pieces are an invitation to extend imagination to the joyous moments in the world around us, and to return to an innocent sense of wonder. Using playful form language and intuitive mark making, I invent my own array of stylized plant life in the form of contained environments. The trees I sculpt are methodical and rhythmic, inspired by both wild and manicured plants, but constructed within the limitations of the process of coil building. I find beauty in the immediacy and materiality of clay, working spontaneously and playfully to imbue the pieces with palpable energy. My forms are embedded with awkwardness and honesty through my manipulation of ceramic materials, combining a reverence for craft with an overstated and garish flamboyance. My imagined scenes are a celebration of life’s abundance and a celebration of ceramic processes, offering delight through optimistic symbols and lush ceramic surfaces. I hope this work can be an opportunity to stimulate playful imagination and draw attention to the importance of finding moments of joy in our increasingly complicated daily lives.

Adviser: Peter Pinnell

Included in

Ceramic Arts Commons