Dustin Yager’s installation and functional work deals with popular perceptions of pottery, taste, class, and all that goes along with it. His work has been exhibited in Minneapolis, Chicago, and nationally, and he has given presentations about his work and academic research at Pecha Kucha Chicago, the National Council for Education in the Ceramic Arts, The Soap Factory, and The American Craft Council. Yager earned a Master of Arts degree in Visual and Critical Studies from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and holds a BA from Carleton College. He is originally from Wyoming.
I grew up without the concept of “design.” In my rural family rising into the middle class, our decisions when shopping for everyday objects were often based on functionality rather than style, intention, or explicit cultural messaging. As a result of this limited vocabulary and mostly naïve to the implicit messages I was choosing, it wasn’t until I was well into my twenties that I fully grasped the power of design to control the environment around us. What we choose to display—on the body and in the home—shapes how we are perceived and how we feel about ourselves.
My work draws attention to our hybrid role as participants in culture. As neither entirely passive consumers nor all-powerful producers, people manufacture, manipulate, and mirror the values embodied by our material belongings and creations. We digest and respond to personal experience, comprehensive marketing campaigns, retail displays, and digital interactions. The selection and arrangement of objects defines boundaries of comfort and anxiety, inclusion and exclusion, power and control. Drawing upon my encounters with gender, sexuality, class, urban/rural divisions, and art/craft distinctions, I create objects and installations to disrupt and question the flow of propriety in domestic spaces. I am fascinated by the variety of ways in which individuals find agency when confronted with the assumptions of lifestyle design and prescriptive expectations of social status.
I am ultimately interested in the role we each have in creating culture as a series of experiences that shape how we situate objects, places, and interactions in our daily relationships. I often use found and handmade ceramic pieces as an entry point into the home. By accessing a familiar material and set of rituals, I stretch the shared nostalgia of this allegedly comfortable setting to create moments of identification, alienation, and reflection. I construct a site of confluence of personal experience and cultural messaging. Visual and verbal prompts cue a kind of visual literacy that extends into our complex material lives.