Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Pete Pinnell

Second Advisor

Eddie Dominguez

Third Advisor

Margaret Bohls

Date of this Version



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 Pete Pinnell

Lincoln, Nebraska, April 2023


Copyright 2023, Maxwell Henderson


As an artist, my work is a conduit for the exploration of "qualia" – the personal, deeply subjective experiences, emotions, and perceptions that shape our conscious lives. My artistic journey, born from a childhood in Arizona poverty and my biracial identity, has ignited a passion for inclusivity and diversity in art and society, guiding me to challenge traditional material hierarchies and conventional artistic norms.

My art interweaves the vivid aesthetics of Japanese Kutani porcelain and the natural, raw beauty of Icelandic landscapes with the fluidity and balance found in ceramic vessels. Through this fusion, I strive to redefine the role of color in artistic expression and to push the boundaries of creative output.

My work stands as a unique artistic practice that breathes new life into Kutani aesthetics. I employ commercial porcelain tiles as my canvas, glazing them in a way that challenges Western material hierarchies and invites viewers into a dynamic dance of chaos and calm, tranquility and turbulence. This process, born from meticulous experimentation and contemporary materials, narrates the story of my transformative journey.

Informed by organic scribbles in a sketchbook, my method of creating ceramic vessels gives rise to forms that balance asymmetry and capture the rich nuances of the human experience. These vessels, defiant in their non-utility, symbolize a transcendence of convention, opening a dialogue about the intrinsic value of ceramics beyond functionality.

My ceramics serve as a medium to express complex narratives, challenging conventional perspectives on art, materiality, and the human experience. This alchemy of diverse cultural inspirations and personal narrative invites viewers to delve into their subconscious perspectives, engage with the complexities of the human condition, and perceive ceramics as an impactful and significant art form.

Ultimately, my work is a testament to my journey of self-discovery and underscores the importance of embracing diversity and challenging hierarchies in art and life. In my artistic exploration, I seek to advocate for a richer understanding of our shared and diverse human experiences, using the transformative power of ceramics as the vehicle for this conversation.

Advisor: Pete Pinnell