About the Artist

Dawn Stetzel is a sculptor living in the United States on the Long Beach Peninsula on the southern coast of Washington. She uses her work to maintain a sense of drive through political and environmental doom, looking at what makes people want to take part in treks, feats of endurance for activism and action spurring change through what seems ridiculous, unimaginable or impossible. She has a MFA from The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, has exhibited widely, at Grounds for Sculpture, Disjecta and the Portland Biennial, shown internationally and has lectured in the United States, China and Brazil.

Artist Statement

I make sculptural objects that interact with a specific environment. These environments are usually in the margins of places, feeling somehow desolate, vast, or lonely due to forms of neglect. These are places I find oddly fascinating, sometimes disgusting and pull at visceral threads in my being. Often these landscapes can exhibit hints of resourcefulness and potential paths to new ways of living in a place, thus they at times feel somewhat like home to me.

My sculptures embrace the aesthetics of resourcefulness, repairing, adaptability and invention. I prefer a low-tech approach and glean materials from my surroundings. I select all materials for their specific and inherent story of place relevant to the concepts within each sculpture. This process of collecting materials puts me in the edges of places, a process I need to connect me to my emotions, people and the specifics of place.

I am currently making work that struggles with seeking moments of survival within a dysfunctional system, on the move, searching out, opportunistic existence. I use a tinge of the ridiculous and make pieces that function but just barely. I am exploring spatial and environmental justice, systematic disparity, and the climate crisis. The heart of my deep emotional distress lays within our overlapping crises as the climate crisis connects us all and at the same time amplifies the disparity gap.

There can be a grace to living on the edge, teetering on the brink, standing on shifting ground. This place of unease is a place of change and its discomfort can spur innovation and resourcefulness and a re-connect with each other and the environment that we desperately need in order to survive.


How do you interpret ‘Ready to wear’ in your work?

Evacuation routes and preparedness sirens and drills, Fire or Flood Jacket is ready to wear and provides me the opportunity to reflect on notions of home, adaptability, and perceptions of safety. Climate change extremes, longer fire seasons and rising waters are part of my conversation. Through this work I am reaching for security as a state of mind, being resourceful, adaptable and safe in my choices of insecurity. This is preparation and acceptance that goes beyond the disaster kit that may or may not be handy or within reach when danger presents itself.

Housedress explores whom I relate to in my community. Within this piece is my somber acknowledgement of the fact that I relate to and gravitate toward a community that I can never really be a part of. The house structures on Housedress, are similar to shantytowns with shared walls and barely held together roofs. I relate to these structures in part because they exist via a resourcefulness that is not visible in other communities. I feel connected to this community, yet will always be separate. Like the clothing I wear, I am of it, but not truly. Housedress is wearable, part of me for a brief moment. I can be in it and of it and it can provide a temporary sense of shelter and belonging. Within this work is the search for my community and my yearning to belong.

Mattress Poncho is an exaggerated in size and shape hooded poncho sewn using the fabric from discarded street-side, woods-found mattresses. Visible on the piece is the wear-and-tear, various stains and moments of repair. It is quilted, thick, heavy and doublesided. Mattress Poncho becomes a garment, a wearable bed of sorts. The performative aspect of this work, a full series, involves spending time on and at many sites of discarded mattresses found at various locations. Mattress Poncho and mattress/site merge together to some extent via materials, and inserts the body back into these vacant liminal spaces.



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