The pathway for my work as an artist began through my involvement with pottery. The potter’s wheel was simply magical to me, and over many years I made hundreds of purely functional bowls, plates, vases, cups and the like. But I found that over time, the functional aspects of traditional pottery became increasingly less important to me. I began to make work like “Cup Series #32” (left) or “A Small Gathering” (right) that had remnants of pottery, but no particular use. It was at this point I began to think of my work as sculpture first and foremost.

The sculptures that followed were derived from forms made on a potter’s wheel, but at a certain point in time, the desire to continue working on the wheel dissipated. Ideas for new pieces were forming that no longer incorporated any aspect of pottery, and it seemed time to explore some of these new avenues. This led to wall pieces like “Thoughts Of A River” (left) and “Untitled Grid”(right) …


... and floor pieces like “Pyramid Piece” (left) and “Round” (right). It was as though an old rule book had been abandoned, and the possibilities for expression expanded for me greatly.

Following my graduation from Rhode Island School of Design, I moved to N.Y.C., sharing a loft on 129th street in Harlem with another artist. Finding myself without the extensive ceramic facilities at R.I.S.D., I began to use primarily wood to create my sculpture, and without the color that glazes brought, I began to use paint instead. Having always worked in ceramics up to that point, it felt like a new challenge to begin to embrace new materials. There was a simultaneous feeling of uncertainty and excitement over the broad spectrum of what sculpture might be. While my ideas about sculpture expanded, so did the size of the work as well, as can be seen in “Ongoing Departure” (left) and “Color Curve” (right).

These works and others from the 1980’s reflect the strong elements of geometry, pattern and repetition within urban environments, and also express an observation that all forms are made up of many forms. Much like molecules to atoms, or notes to symphonies, or bricks to buildings to cities, there is often a consistent use of multiple forms to create a larger whole in much of my sculpture. “Chromatic Foundation” (left) and “Reciprocation” (right) would be graphic examples of this approach.

In 1987, I left my loft in Manhattan and moved north by 2 hours to the Hudson River Valley. In the town of Claverack, N.Y., I bought an old dairy and hay barn, where I live with my wife Linda, and daughter Serena. It has made an ideal home in which I also have ample space to make and show my art. The natural rhythms and landscape of the rural environment in which I now found myself inevitably began to enter the fabric of my sculpture. The formally structured geometry of my earlier work gave way to a more organic approach, where the creation of pieces became far more intuitive, with no strong pre-conception of outcome.

By the early 1990’s, I began a series of pieces that were painted assemblages of primarily wood shapes contained within boxes. These wall pieces might be best described as sculptural paintings, as in pieces like “Summer Box” (left) or “Nocturnal” (right).

The abstract quality of these and other sculptures that are created within the boundaries of the boxes, holds a kind of tension that gives the pieces life. In other box sculptures I have used recognizable objects, yet they maintain an abstractness in how they are presented. Examples of these would be pieces like “Blues Bucket” (left) and “Self-Portrait” (right):

In time the confines of the boxes were removed, and the assemblages of shapes and color began to appear as if they were hovering in a magnetic field. I wanted to create pieces that had a sense of randomness and balance simultaneously, with both the forms and the colors creating multiple spacial relationships. The earliest of these pieces were quite dense and chaotic as in “Semaphore” (left) or “Hammerhead” (right).

Later work developed that had a far more open and airy quality; where the painted forms, the shadows they cast, and the negative spaces in between had more equal importance within the overall piece. This can be seen in the sculptures “Through and Through” (left) and “Interrupted Circle” (right).

There are no hard and fast rules for how I create my work. It is strongly rooted in an intuitive process. Occasionally, I visualize a piece to a large degree prior to its being made, as with “Logpile” (left) or “Endgrain” (right), but more often than not I start with more of a blank slate, trusting that something will unfold as the process moves forward. Though talking about art serves many purposes, I strive to make work that has the effect of diminishing internal dialogue. The art that I have seen that has most moved me has always had this kind of effect on me.

— Peter Hoffman