Zak Helenske


Traversing Truth and Decay is a reaction to the constant flux of industrial entropy, creative syntropy, and the cyclical tendencies of society and nature alike. Decay feeds new potentials in all facets of life. Using cast iron, raw clay, soda fired ceramics, and found objects, I strove to harness lost forms of released energy. In their moment of vulnerability, these different materials reacted with similar chaotic physical tendencies and became reflective of one another. Similarly, when social structures find themselves exposed to dilapidation and ruin, patterns repeat themselves. Versatility, adaptation, and instinct fall to decay and submit in exhaustion to wait for new purpose. I sought the nuance in this submission and the forced simplification of life after potential. My process revealed the entropic tendencies existing within industrial and social structures exist in the artistic process as well. As makers, we not only create objects and installations, but we also build situations or the infrastructure to facilitate our making process. With them, we hope to find a beautiful end. These situations are often overlooked as simply the process; however, I made attempts to harness the nuances within every situation I created along the way. Through acknowledgment, awareness, and documentation these situations were linked to the finished sculpture, forever a visual history. The finished object became an actor within the process, and the sculptures became a record or material imprint. All materials were dependent on each other; they were reactions to each other. Iron reacted to clay, found objects reacted to iron, clay reacted to found objects, and wax reacted to the ensemble.

The core of my thesis research was experiential. I did not set out to make something based on a single concept in order to resurrect beauty from an idea. I approached my research based on a different notion of beauty. There was romance in my work, in the materials I chose, and in the everyday dance of daily material practices, artistic, industrial, or domestic. I aimed to harness or reveal this inherent beauty. My work was based on reflexes, reactions, and interactions. My impulses led me through multiple concepts, historical references, formal progressions, and technical revelations.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Metal sculpture--Themes, motives; Metal sculpture--Technique; Ceramic sculpture--Themes, motives; Ceramic sculpture--Technique; Found objects (Art)

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Department, Program, or Center

School for American Crafts (CIAS)


Rick Hirsch

Advisor/Committee Member

Jane Shellenbarger

Advisor/Committee Member

Elizabeth Kronfield


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at NB1220 .H45 2014


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes