Cliff Tresner comes from a farming background on the plains of Illinois and Indiana. He attended Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN, and earned a BFA in Sculpture/Woodworking in 1990. From there he came to the south, attending The University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS, and receiving his MFA in sculpture in 1994.
Mr. Tresner has been teaching sculpture and drawing at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) since 1997. He has received many grants and awards including Best in Show at the Louisiana Contemporary 2014 exhibition at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA; a Louisiana Division of Arts Fellowship; Northeast Louisiana Arts Council’s “Artist of the Year Award”; second place award in the National Outdoor Sculpture Competition, Lakeland, FL; and has received numerous Career Advancement Grants from the Louisiana Division of the Arts.
Mr. Tresner has an extensive exhibition record in drawing, painting, and sculpture. His recent focus has been on large-scale outdoor public sculpture with exhibitions in FL, NC, VA, LA, AL, NY, NC, and MS.
He serves the community as director of ULM's Sculpture Garden, an exhibition space devoted to bringing artists from around the nation to the University and local community; Director of ULM's Bry Hall Gallery, exhibiting artists of all disciplines; board member of the Northeast Louisiana Arts Council; and is currently historian of Kappa Pi International Art Fraternity.
I grew up the son of a farmhand on the plains of central Illinois. I was the first in my family to graduate high school and attend college. In many ways I was initially ill equipped to lead the life of a college art professor. Assuming the aura of sage refinement often associated with those in academia has always seemed elusive, and exploring my role as an educator and artist is still a work in progress. I often gauge others' reactions to a variety of situations and to the creative process. I do this primarily out of a sense of discovery; learning on the fly and questioning boundaries -seeing how things work, and often, fail to work.
In the simplest terms my work is about questioning. I tend to question everything and doubt the answer. In the studio I have freedom to question and doubt. While individual works may deal with specific subject matter, the underlying structure is questioning the nature of relationships. What happens if I do this or that to a material, or place one object adjacent another? I am constantly working out the elements of a composition, balancing what I know of furniture design and other so called functional crafts with fine art practices, questioning mine and others' relative worth in society and, frankly, anything that comes to mind. When I have provided enough answers via the "art object" I question if I was asking the right things in the first place.
I am not sure why I am this way. "I was born in Missouri, the Show Me State," is my general answer. I learned quickly in public education to temper my questions, and except answers for what they are. Through the artistic process I come to terms with my inquisitive nature. I revel in it, and during a cycle of creation and destruction, arrive at an answer I can live with. When making a successful piece, walking the line between its content and form, I realize how interconnected my practice is with all aspects of my life.
My influences are as varied as the way I piece my work together. I take great pleasure discovering other artists' work, analyzing how they are perceived, and taking what I need from them. All things relative, I borrow my historical perspective, sense of craft, conceptual flexibility, playfulness, and connection to my materials from the likes of Marcel Duchamp, Anthony Gormley, David Nash, and Leonardo da Vinci. This is by no means a definitive statement, but it is an effective introduction to my work and myself.