Stepping into Greenville artist Alice Ballard’s home studio is like an adventure in the woods: magnolia seed pods, rock collections, leaves, small tree branches, and acorns are placed about the open space and pinned to walls. Her poetic sculptures symbolically mimic the organic world in themes like life cycles and interconnectedness. She explains, “Life is like a spiral; we are always coming back around to places, people, and things.”
Ballard became a self-proclaimed artist at three years of age when she climbed out of her crib, found a wax crayon, and made markings all over her bedroom wall. She recalls this story, her first memory, in its irony because she only remembers how fun it was to draw on the wall rather than the ensuing punishment from her mother.
Ballard’s father was a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. The places she lived with her parents is a long list of charming cities alive with endless possibilities for the young artist. She fondly recalls family trips to the Louvre rather than playing board games on weekends. Her various homesteads set a foundation for her artistic development and inspired a great love for travel.
Southern Landscape //
Alice Ballard teaches ceramic arts at Christ Church Episcopal School and exhibits her naturally inspired ceramics throughout the world. She will join jewelry artist Kate Furman at Art & Light Gallery in Greenville beginning February 9. Her work will also be at the Greenville Center for Creative Arts in the exhibition Possibilities: GCCA Ceramics Invitational, February 3–March 29. She is represented by Hodges Taylor Consultancy in Charlotte and Blue Spiral 1 in Asheville, North Carolina.
After graduating with a Master of Arts degree in painting from the University of Michigan, Ballard discovered her love of clay, which was quickly becoming popular in the world of fine art and craft. She had experimented with sculpture in college, but clay was different, she thought. “The pliability and softness of clay are what I love. It seems as if the medium has a life of its own,” states Ballard.
The 1970s were prolific years for the talented young artist. She married Charlie Munn, began teaching drawing, joined a raku firing group, gave birth to her son Ryan, and started a gallery relationship with the prestigious Jerald Melberg Gallery in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 1983, while on a business trip, Charlie tragically died when the company plane he was on caught fire. Her son was only nine-years-old. Ballard confesses, “That first year after Charlie died, the studio became my refuge, but eventually it became a place of loneliness. I realized I needed contact with people during my grief.”
Ballard’s reemergence from the solitude of her studio after her husband’s untimely death took the form of teaching art to children in Charlotte. She ultimately gave her creativity to the students and took a hiatus from doing personal work. She craved the structure, purpose, and connection with the children. It was a welcome change in a dark time.
In the late 1980s, Ballard met her second husband, Alaskan architect Roger Dalrymple. After working together on public art installations in Alaska for five years, the couple moved to Greenville in the mid-1990s. It took an invitation and trip to the International Ceramic Colony in Resen, Macedonia, and a 15-year break from her personal art before Ballard returned to the studio and picked up exactly where she left off; doing mostly sculptural ceramic work in white earthenware. Soon after, Ballard began teaching at Christ Church Episcopal School where she teaches today. She also spent ten years molding students at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.
In the earth-toned and textured wall installations of pods in her studio, Ballard’s intuitive voice signifies her metamorphosis. These themes are also apparent in the series Tree Totems, created after September 11, 2001, where large-scale sculptures sprout new growth in improbable places, representing new life budding from an otherwise barren form. She explains, “Fire is necessary for seed pods to release their seeds. The burning is essential for new life to grow. The idea of the new growth on the trees gave me closure from my husband’s death.” Today, Ballard continues to spend productive time in the studio as she moves between several bodies of sculptural work while revisiting her first loves in art: painting and drawing. “The older I get, the more I realize my work is a self-portrait, a life story,” says Ballard.