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Crystal Schenk


Every culture has its own unique traditions of heritage, honoring the passage of life and the objects or legacies people leave behind. This might come in the form of elaborate ceremonies, reliquaries, or heirlooms.

However, when my parents were old enough, they moved as far away from their families and customs as possible and never looked back. As a result, I feel that I have lost touch with my origins and I don’t know much about my own ancestry. What I do know is that my grandparents and most of my extended family live in the Midwest, where the cultural tradition of the locale is apparently to produce and hand down doilies—tons and tons of doilies—as I have a nice sized collection of doilies, table runners, and afghan blankets stored away in boxes to prove this theory. This handmade inheritance has piqued my curiosity as to what traces I will leave behind in this world. Will I pass on cracked antique china, unpaid bills, and my DNA, or simply leave tiny, unnoticed mementos of my existence?


Crystal Schenk received an MFA from Portland State University in 2007, and BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1999. She lives and works in Portland, Oregon, USA.
Using a variety of mediums, Schenk’s sculptures address issues of esteem, physical and mental health/illness, class, and social interaction. Much of her subject matter is drawn from her familial history. Rooted in a very private space, the topics she explores are based on experiences we all share—bridging the gap between personal and public. Crystal is interested in the connections between people; the infinite points in time, memory and circumstance where our lives converge. Schenk employs a high degree of skill and craft to her art, earning her a reputation for work that is not just conceptually strong, but adeptly executed as well.
Crystal Schenk was awarded the prestigious International Sculpture Center's Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award for 2006. Her sculpture Have and Have Not was part of a six month ISC exhibit at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, and has been published in Sculpture and Craft magazines. Schenk subsequently was selected as the recipient of ISC’s artist in residency program at Art-st-urban in Switzerland. This was a six week, fully funded residency during the summer of 2007, which provided both live and work space and the opportunity to meet many of Switzerland’s artists, collectors and curators. While there, Schenk completed a suite of nine new sculptural works, which were featured in a six month solo exhibition at Art-st-urban.
Schenk’s work has been exhibited at galleries in Switzerland, New York, Chicago, Portland, and throughout the Midwest. She is an adjunct professor at The Art Institute of Portland.