Andréa Keys Connell Searches for Moments of Beauty in Her Tender Clay Sculptures


#Andréa Keys Connell

June 27, 2024

Jackie Andres

a ceramic sculpture of a figure standing next to a deer. the deer rests on a raincloud and another rain cloud rests on the figure's head. water droplets cover both subjects.

“What Comes Down Must Go Up.” All images © Andréa Keys Connell, shared with permission

Andréa Keys Connell has an immeasurably tender outlook on craft. Viewing object-making as a way to better understand how art adds to the human experience, the North Carolina-based artist feels tremendous joy in sculpting clay.

Coated with expressive brushstrokes in exuberant hues, Connell’s figures embrace one another and exist in close proximity, melding into single entities. Her sculptural compositions are inspired by the sheer delight she experiences while creating and the sentimental stories on which she bases her works.

Fascinated by the complexity of the material, the artist explains that in terms of process, she has always approached clay in the same way that painters approach paint. “I feel like [clay] has the ability to create a more dynamic painting,” she shares. “With my pieces, I’m always chasing an image, and when I see that image in my head, I see it first as a painting.”

A few years ago, a fire destroyed the community art space Connell and her partner had been running, and several of her ceramic sculptures perished as well. Although many objects were completely reduced to shards, some survived completely intact. Finding enduring works encouraged her family to, as she recounts, “turn toward what hadn’t been lost. In this way, we continued our search with not only resolve, but a sort of happiness.” Sifting through the rubble provided a sense of closure, and in its own way, the act of searching through grief connected with her overarching perspective of treating craft itself as a form of seeking. Connell expresses:

This experience had a profound impact on how I now approach my making. The reason I miss many of the pieces I lost in the fire is they marked time in a special way, and at their best, they felt alive to their moment. They were, and remain, things I want to continue to hold. The lesson for me is: if the object is lost, the language of care is clarified—and I hope this informs my work. I want to hold the present moment, and to hold the things I have however I am able to. 

Connell is preparing for an upcoming shows at Blue Spiral 1 in Asheville and Jane Hartsook Gallery in New York City later this year. Find more work on the artist’s website, and follow her on Instagram for updates.


a pug peeks around the side of a pink potted plants and looks upward. the pot in the plat towers above in different hues.

“Hold On”

a ceramic sculpture of two children leaning on each other. a tree to their right leans on them as well.


a ceramic sculpture of a young girl embracing two lambs. a cloud looms above her head, with teardrops emerging from the bottom of it


a ceramic sculpture of the back of a patterned figure kneeling. the figure disappears into a patterned background


a ceramic sculpture of a figure covered in floral motifs with a lamb on its head. a tree with three birds nesting in it ascends upward.


a ceramic sculpture of a figure with its eyes closed, embracing both a lamb and another individual. a throng of flowers covers the top of the composition.


a ceramic sculpture of a young girl embracing a lamb. a tree bends behind them, almost as if it is embracing the small girl as well.



a pug peeks around the side of a pink potted plants and looks upward. the pot in the plat towers above in different hues.

Detail of “Hold On”

#Andréa Keys Connell


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