Occupied, Bailey Donovan, slip cast earthenware, 2018
Occupied is an installation of ceramic padlocks in the men’s bathroom. There is a lot of symbolism related to locks that I wanted to explore namely its association with love or ‘lovelocks’. ‘Lovelocks’ are a very kitsch and tacky concept that has not been really explored through art due to this very nature. However, I decided to put a fresh perspective as a gay man on this overused imagery and use it to express themes of queerness. A way I made this clear was by placing my locks in an only male environment, the men’s bathroom. This contrasted nicely with using ceramic as a material which is traditionally known as a feminine craft.
The bathroom seemed like the perfect place to install my ceramic work as it is already full of ceramics (toilet, urinal, sink, and tiles) and so has a sense of this is where it belongs. I drew the title of Occupied from the locking mechanism of the toilet stall doors tying together the setting and the object. This title also gives the feeling that the space you are observing is in use. The bathroom is a very private and intimate space and within a queer context has a subcontext of a sexual nature. In bathrooms there is a very odd juxtaposition between clean and dirty that has been echoed through the weathered look of my locks. The bisque locks were covered in copper oxide before being vitrified to give them the weathered appearance that can be observed. This implies a history to the locks and that they have been regularly used.
An important aspect of my piece is how the original locks that were cast are found objects not bought. These locks I found do not have keys and so if I were to close them and lock them, they can never be unlocked. I find this idea poetic and is what initially drew me to them as objects. I also enjoy the sense of personal security and interpersonal restriction that comes from a lock and waned to draw on that with my cast objects. There is 37 locks, 4 of which are broken due to a kiln accident however this is perhaps serendipitous as I believe adds layer to the work and fits well into its context and setting.