Delicate and bold, Kurtz's work tells a three-dimensional story with each piece.
Tiles of different colors, designs, materials and shapes are found everywhere. They adorn floors, ceilings, walls, fireplaces, bathtubs and treasure boxes, to name a few places you can find them. Tiles beautify, are functional and often overlooked in the art world.
Taos tilemaker Alex Kurtz laughed when asked if she could name a famous tilemaker who inspired her, explaining, "Only because I cannot think of a single 'famous' tilemaker. There are well-known and or well-established traditional tile companies around the world. I can't say any of them inspire me. When I was in art school one of my professors showed us some slides of tiles by Taos artist Hank Saxe that were inspiring. They were like nothing else I had seen at the time and it sort of gave me the idea that tiles don't have to be square or boring or any of the other things that most people picture them as in the traditional sense."
Lucky for Taos, this talented tilemaker is joining Ammann Gallery, 120-L Bent Street. The gallery is home for several local artists who work shifts, seven days a week, mingling with customers and taking care of the details of running an art gallery.
Kurtz's work redefines what a tile can do. Delicate and bold, Kurtz's work tells a three-dimensional story with each piece.
"I make ceramic tiles," she said. "I hand build them all. They are one of a kind, many of them are sculptural, though I also make more traditional flat tiles. They are decorative wall pieces, based on the natural world. I've been making and selling them for my living for close to 20 years."
In her view, she said "art tiles can transform a space, just like a painting or a sculpture or any other art piece can. 'Art tiles' might be a ceramic piece you would hang on a wall, as opposed to say tiling your counter with. Clay as an art form is devalued (at least compared to other types of art) but it can still have just as much of an effect and or aesthetic value as those other mediums."
Kurtz has a working studio in her home, she said. "My working studio is part of my home, it is a personal and creative space for me. I get my inspiration from the plants, birds and bugs I find outside, wherever I happen to be, which is around Taos."
Her method allows her to "enjoy the part of the process where I look for the things that will become the subjects of my tiles (and sometimes I stumble across them, or they find me). It is super important for me to get out and look around, and to take notice of the other creatures we share this world with, and I take the things I see and recreate them as small ceramic treasures in the form of tiles, it's sort of my way of paying homage to the subject. This way other people can take them home and hang them on their wall and enjoy them and if along the way they are inspired to care a little more about what is outside or take more notice of their natural surroundings, then I would consider that to be a huge success."
She said she is inspired by the tiles she sees around town "being made by some of my contemporary clay colleagues. My good friend Abby Salsbury makes some incredible textured and layered ceramic wall pieces and tiles (some of which have been on show at Taos Clay and at some other fine locals) and Mandy Stapleford has some amazing sculptural tiles over at Ennui Gallery. I think for me, what people are doing right now in the clay world is more inspiring than the tiles I know in the more historic and or traditional sense."
Never one to turn down a challenge, Kurtz said, "In 2016 and '17 I did a project where I made a sculptural tile based on something I saw that day, every day for a year. I still think about that project. I enjoyed the daily intention and the result and keep thinking about another project that could have similar parameters … we'll see."
When asked what her future projects might look like, Kurtz replied, "For the moment I hope that selling my work at Ammann Gallery will keep me busy."
For more information, call the gallery at (575) 758-7450 or visit ammanngallery.com.
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