Stumbras was born in Chicago, Illinois. He studied at St. Olaf College, where he received a BFA in studio art and a BS in biology in 2007. He completed residencies at 323 Clay in Independence, MO; The Clay Art Center in Port Chester, NY; and The Carbondale Clay Center in Carbondale, CO. Stumbras received an MFA in Ceramics from Louisiana State University in 2017. Formerly a visiting assistant professor at the College of William and Mary and a Lecturer at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Stumbras has exhibited work nationally and internationally. He is currently living and working in Kansas City, Missouri.
My work explores the beauty and horror of our existential uncertainties and the nature of the human condition as we seek meaning and fulfillment through labor — or despite it. As we tend to assess value in terms of productivity and progress, I believe this work highlights the competing forces and internal conflicts regarding these meanings. As a compulsory part of existing comfortably in contemporary society, much of the work that so many regularly undertake leaves humans disengaged from the products of our labor as we generate capital for ourselves and, notably, others.
My work addresses design elements from 18th and 19th century European and American slipcast ware. Although my work emulates commercial production ware, I work slowly, deliberately, and with hand processes on the wheel. The historical work that inspires me presents a criterion for beauty that often seems empty in regards to contemporary considerations regarding the experience of living and being. I believe that the functional ceramic artist can emerge from the muck of these ideas as a rebellious figure: an artist, mostly unconcerned with the conceptual authority of productivity.
This work suggests that it bears witness to the ebb and flow of civilizations, of progresses, and of people. As vessels that exist through time as humans cannot hope to, these pots whisper to us to confront the knowledge we share of our progression toward inevitable demise and our march into obscurity. It is both a liberating comfort, and a savage terror that the dead cannot return, except in stories and in dreams.