For her series of ceramic sculptures titled Shadow Circus, Kirsten Stingle draws upon her extensive training in the theater to create subtle narrative pieces. Incorporating found objects with her considerable technical ability, the artist summons dreamy stories through her command over gesture and shape; the blend of rusted objects and newly formed faces stands in for any physical movement normally employed to convey the passage of time.
Shadow Circus is evocative of miniature puppetry works like Alexander Calder’s legendary circus, where only the slightest details make the inanimate appear human. The narrative power of the circus lies of course in motion, which Calder once evoked with his pulleys and threads; Stingle impressively avoids the performative, and her painfully still works appear as if frozen, on the verge of animation.
In this way, each figure reveals itself like a funerary figure, meant to accompany not Cleopatra but the modern woman into her tomb, bringing with her objects useful in some imagined underworld: a machine-horse hybrid motorbike, a foreboding rowboat with wheels. The work’s religious iconography further realizes this thrust toward an otherworldly eternity; a Catholic-style papal mitre makes an appearance, surrounded by delicate symbols of the cross.
The artist also seems to pull from the work of women artists like Georgia O’Keeffe, combining fatalistic bleach white bone with the seductive prettiness of a pink rose, red lipstick, or a baby doll wearing pale bunny ears. Placed firmly within this feminine aesthetic, Shadow Circus is simultaneously blossoming and fertile and eerily disquieting; Stingle’s nuanced work appeals both to a fear of death and a hope for rebirth. Each piece, with its antique aesthetic and meticulously fashioned visage, is poignantly left eternally waiting for the movement and life that feels so inherent within her. (via Hi-Fructose)
The Metamorphosis Series by artist Shi Shaoping is a poetic look at life. Shi created 3,000 ceramic eggs over the course of a year. Each egg weighs about 22 pounds and as a group come in at about 48 tons. The eggs were then taken to some of China’s loneliest locales. From grassland to beach, deserts, and mountains, the ceramic eggs were spread out on the ground. The entire project was documented with photographs and videos.
In a way The Metamorphosis Series is as much a site specific installation as it is a performance. Shi set before himself an intentionally difficult project, one that would entail hard work, a journey, and perhaps transformation. Like the egg, these too are a symbol of life. However, they clearly also point toward potentiality – the field of eggs seems poised to hatch. The exhibition statement goes on to relate about the project:
“Shaoping is like a fortuneteller who uses the 3,000 giant eggs to remind people of the weight of life. The beauty of the work is the unpredictability, and the unlimited imagination it brings. The fragile yet vigorous eggs of life emphasizes that we eventually have to respect every single living thing in the universe. The sands may cover the frost-glazed castle; the soaring fallen leaves may blanket the ground. The persistence and power of life, however, will fight against the mediocrity and itself. The contradiction is the language Shaoping’s looking for to express his world of Metamorphosis. This triggers the speculation and discussion on contemporary art and life value.”
Artist Li Lihong expertly juxtaposes two familiar but disparate sets of imagery. He renders familiar corporate logos as three dimensional sculptures. However, these are more than just sculptures. Li uses traditional ceramicist techniques coupled with Chinese iconography. The pairing of traditional and contemporary, East and West, corporate and fine art isn’t such a violent clash one may expect. Rather, the over arching familiarity, through from contrasting sources, is nearly complimentary.
The art of Christopher David White seems like it could be found decaying in the forest at the end of your street. However, the gnarled wood, patina copper, rusting metal is all meticulously worked ceramic. White’s work is at once quietly peaceful and playful dealing out a subtle surrealism. He offers curious find on objects that would normally be passed over. Regarding his ultra-realistic style and themes of deterioration, White explains:
“Through the use of trompe l’oeil, we look closer; we rediscover the amazement, joy, and tranquility that come from our environment…Neither good nor bad, decay is simply a natural process of our world that at times can produce deeply moving and beautiful effects.”
Rebecca Manson sent me a text message not too long ago with an image of a unicycle she had just sculpted and an accompanying message that read, “Here’s a sneak peek, his name is Peter.” It was adorable and part of an exhibit she had created at CSULB. But then moments later my phone rang, “Daniel” she said in horror, “the main sculpture in my exhibit just broke.”
Barnaby Barford is a British artist who works primarily with ceramics to create unique narrative pieces. He works with both mass-market and antique found porcelain figurines, cutting up and exchanging elements or adding to them and repainting them, to create sculptures which are often sinister and sardonic but invariably humorous. With irony, he draws a portrait of our contemporary lives.
In Barford’s world a kitsch figure of a 19th century peasant boy becomes a 20th century teenage thug in a hoodie; cute little girls roast adorable lambs on a spit; a rosy cheeked boy beats and cracks humpty dumpty into hundreds of pieces. Through his unique works, Barford explores all aspects of our society. Following in the tradition of Hogarth, Chaucer, Dickens and Shakespeare; with a dark sense of English humor and satire, Barford’s work explores and celebrates the human condition.
Working with only “earth, fire and emotions,” Kathy Ruttenberg’s fairytale-like ceramic sculptures create a world that is immediately captivating, but the viewer might be surprised by what’s down the rabbit hole. Her violent and devastating visions are disturbingly peaceful, idyllic and sustainable. Erasing the boundary of the metaphorical and the literal, Ruttenberg’s world is filled with lush foliage, woodland creatures and puzzling, slightly grim yet open-ended reveries of gender relations. Men are always portrayed as animals in gentlemen’s clothing, and women are always well-groomed and dressed in rounded skirts. On one hand, men are literally animal-like savages, but at the same time they are native creatures of the woodlands and the earth itself, whereas the female figures are the outsiders, if not intruders. It is hard to tell if they are men masquerading as animals, or vice versa. Death, in works such as “The Moment After”, is the stark aftermath of failed love, but also an opportunity to blossom imaginatively and become one with earth.
See Kathy’s work in person in NYC at STUX gallery on view now until May 5th.
Rebecca Manson, one of the current sculptors in residence at Cal State University Long Bech [CSULB], told me I had to drive out to the campus to see what Christopher Miller was working on in his studio. So, with my full trust in her hands, I took the hour long and then some drive from Los Angeles to Long Beach to scope it out. And when I got to Miller’s studio I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. It was a painting machine, but one made out of organic materials like bamboo instead of steel, with markers hanging from strings stretched 5 ft high. The whole thing was powered by several fans that would cause the pens to sway back and forth across a massive sheet of paper, which was taped to the ground. Christopher then had various obstacles placed around his painting surface that the pen could work around. For instance, there was one sculpture composed of about 50 triangles that restricted the motion of the pen as well as one of Rebecca’s ceramic pieces that blocked out certain areas of the paper to create an ever -evolving, uniquely beautiful, and chaotic masterpiece. I especially love how you can really feel the heart of Christopher’s piece when you see it in person, since every single element is either hand painted or constructed. Even the strings that are holding the pens have little paper accessories attached to them, which remind me of tie-died Mondrian mobiles. Christopher is still working on this particular sculpture and can always use donations of various painting supplies like inks and markers to help progress the work. If you’re interested in helping him out, you can send him a direct email at Chrismmiller[at]hotmail[dot]com. Watch a video of the piece in action after the jump.