Women & Their Work organized a powerful retrospective exhibition in celebration of Austin artist Tré Arenz. Arenz specialized in contemporary ceramic sculpture, ranging from small individual objects to large mixed-media installations; she tackled serious topics with sensitivity and humor. This is a magnificent effort to honor a woman who richly deserved it.
Tré Arenz One of Us: A Retrospective at Women & Their Work Gallery included over 20 ceramic sculptures, three installation photographs and a DVD slide presentation of Tré Arenz work. Tré Arenz, June 9, 1953 – May 8,2003, received her MFA in 1988 from the University of Texas at Austin and her BFA in 1975 with high distinction from the California College of Arts and Crafts. Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States and she has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants.
Nationally recognized and widely exhibited in over 100 solo and group exhibitions, Tré Arenz called Austin her home until her untimely death in May 2003. In the catalogue for the exhibit, writer Lisa Tamiris Becker stated that “Arenz was engaged with the world and its current complexities, struggling to make visible both joy and beauty, as well as the darker sides of reality. The affirmative spirit of Arenz’ work lies not in a refusal to acknowledge pain, suffering, or injustice, but in her ability to manifest such realities in tangible and emotive visual form. Arenz’ work gave form to the formless, making visible both archetypes and marginalities, and those of us that were fortunate to have seen her work and to know her, will remember her for this gift.”
In work that was whimsical, poignant, and thought provoking, Tre Arenz celebrated the domestic and the everyday. Common subjects such as toys, animals (particularly dogs and ponies), cups, and brooms were favorite sources of imagery for work that often also incorporates photography, wood, drawing and other mixed media. Trained as a ceramist at the California College of Arts and Crafts and at the University of Texas in Austin, Arenz took clay beyond the functional and the decorative to the sculptural in work that ranges from small individual objects to large scale, mixed media installations. Well aware of the long history and tradition of ceramics, Arenz’ work often commented on and expanded the parameters that traditionally defined ceramics as a medium.
With a nod to the ancient Chinese and European use of blue and white glazes, she often used this palate but made it her own in what became her signature striped pattern. Arenz was Influenced as a young artist by the California Funk movement which stressed figurative work in reaction to New York Abstract Expressionism. She championed playfulness using popular sources to engage the everyday viewer and also asked serious questions in her work about the role of women and the basis of discrimination. Such questions inform Sameness, a large scale blue and white striped installation which was installed at Women & Their Work Gallery in 1995 and is currently re-created at the Austin Museum of Art exhibition, as a homage to Arenz.