Elizabeth Di Donna


The body often seems to exist to keep the mind going. Yet when I work with clay, I’m reminded that mine connects to the natural world. My work stretches between two extremes: from illusion (light and ethereal) to physical (dense and coarse). I intend to find where these dimensionalities converge.

History, memory, and material drive my artistic process. Clay captivates me: What it is, where it comes from, and why we use it. I’m attracted to tactile and physical experiences that begin with digging up the earth and end with ceramic objects that often come in contact with the body. Clay’s wide-ranging forms, from soft and malleable to hard and stable, remind me of our inherent nature — vulnerable yet enduring.

Exploring my physical relationship with the earth has gone from creating clay objects to developing photographs, performances, and installations. Photography captures real moments, but can also fabricate a realm of fantasy and make-believe. Presenting clay within a photographic world transforms it from tangible to enigmatic.

Taking inspiration from specific locales, I build spaces that uncover a sense of memory and an awareness of time, sensations, and the details of the physical world often brought about through symbolic representations, invented landscapes, and dreamlike consciousness. Being the performer or the subject allows a fleeting escape from reality into fantasy.

Site-specific works provide a context to reenact or reinterpret the history of a place, our emotional attachment to it, or loss of it (even a physical bonding with it). The sites I choose often relate to the movements of earth by water, emulating the process by which clay forms. I often excavate clay by hand from local creek beds and use this native material in making and firing objects that serve as an indexical point for a specific geographical location — a place from my experience. These sites also serve as performance events in and of themselves.

My use of memory involves personal memory and aspects of the mind (consciousness, sentience, and dreams), cultural memory (collective consciousness, historical record) as well as material memory (force, action, trace, recollection). I meddle into the problems of memory — how personal memory and collective histories overlap, and how performative actions with an engaged audience can reveal dimensions of physical memory and remnants of shared moments.


Elizabeth Di Donna graduated with a BFA from Wayne State University and an MFA from Florida State University with additional scholarship conducted at the College for Creative Studies and Pewabic Pottery in Detroit, Michigan. FSU awarded her the Florence Teaching Award in 2014, which allowed her to teach art classes in Florence, Italy, through FSU's International Programs.

Before entering graduate school, Liz was a long-time member of the metro Detroit art community. She taught art in after-school and continuing education programs and as adjunct faculty for Marygrove College. She also provided trainings for school teachers and arts administrators for the Institute for Arts Infused Education at Marygrove. She has worn many other art world hats, including gallery coordinator, registrar, and arts writer.

Liz has presented her work nationally and internationally, including Art Basel Miami and the Project Space for the National Council on Education for Ceramic Arts Conference. She has presented research at the Southeastern College Art Conference and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft. She has participated in residencies at Penland School of Crafts, Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, Hambidge Center for Arts and Sciences, Vermont Studio Center, and was Artist-in-Residence at 621 Gallery in Tallahassee. Her current work explores the intersections of personal, cultural, and material memory using site-specific installation, ceramics, performance, and video.

Liz is currently the BA Program Director and Teaching Faculty for the Department of Art at Florida State University.