Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Pete Pinnell

Date of this Version

Spring 4-20-2023


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For The Degree of Master of Fine Arts, Major: Art , Under the Supervision of Professor Pete Pinnell. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2023

Copyright © 2023 Maxwell Henderson


In this thesis, I examine the transformative potential of pottery through the lens of "qualia," the subjective experiences, emotions, and perceptions that shape our conscious lives. Stemming from my personal journey, which includes a childhood of poverty in Arizona and a biracial identity, I advocate for inclusivity and diversity in art and society by challenging material hierarchies and conventional artistic practices.

I delve into the vibrant aesthetics of Japanese Kutani porcelain, the fluidity and balance in ceramic vessels, and the impact of my background on my artistic approach. My experiences foster a rejection of painterly language and arbitrary hierarchies, prompting a shift in my perspective on color and its role in artistic expression. The natural beauty of Iceland and the traditional process of Japanese Kutani porcelain emerge as key influences shaping my artistic preferences and creative output.

My thesis presents a distinct artistic practice that reimagines Kutani aesthetics through glazed commercial porcelain tiles and explores the meditative process of creating ceramic vessels. Through meticulous experimentation and the application of contemporary materials, I challenge prevailing Western material hierarchies while inviting viewers to engage with the harmonious interplay of chaos and calm, tranquility and turbulence.

Furthermore, my method of creating ceramic vessels, informed by organic scribbles in a sketchbook, yields fluid masses of clay that balance formal asymmetry and reflect the rich nuances of human experience. These vessels deliberately defy utility, symbolizing a transcendence of convention and stimulating a dialogue about the value of ceramics beyond their functional purpose.

This thesis ultimately underscores the potential of ceramics to convey complex narratives and challenge conventional perspectives on art, materiality, and human experience. By fusing diverse cultural inspirations and my personal narrative, I invite viewers to contemplate their subconscious perspectives, engage with the complexities of the human condition, and appreciate ceramics as a valuable and significant art form. My exploration serves as a testament to my journey of self-discovery and emphasizes the importance of embracing diversity and challenging hierarchies in art and life.

Advisor: Pete Pinnell