You won’t find cadavers or skeletal remains in ceramic artist Cynthia Consentino’s “Exquisite Corpse Series.” The project takes its name from the Parisian Surrealist parlor game, in which each player wrote a word or drew an image on a sheet of paper, folded the paper to conceal it, and passed it to the next player for his or her contribution. The results were wildly incongruous poems and images, gathered ideas from many minds.
In Consentino’s series, hers is the only mind at work, and the results are strangely charming and more than a little disturbing. The hybrid figures combine animal with human and the occasion household object. They play with the idea of gender stereotypes, something that began to interest the artist after reading a study where five-year-olds were asked to name a representational animal.
“The boys identified with animals that were predatory, and the girls with animals that were cute and cuddly. One girl even answered with a flower. I thought that there would also be girls who wanted to be tigers, but then I remembered loving playing a flower in a school play at that age. (Source)”
To loosen these gender constructs, she made varied heads, torsos, and legs then assembled them in ceramic sculptures of various configurations, some almost life-size. With their softly rounded limbs and pastel and pretty color palette they can seem almost sweet, but the fierce wolves heads and deadly weapons belie their innocence.
“My style seems a bit nostalgic, something from the fifties, or from folk art. It derives much of its character from children’s things: fairy tale, cartoons, dolls, games, as well as the domestic world. The work often incorporates imagery that is loaded with symbolism and history, such as flowers, animals and the ceramic figurine. It is very much about the familiar, things of our dreams, our stories, our childhood. (Source)”
Packed within the four walls of a tiny 6 by 10 centimeter sardine can, the miniature characters created by sculptor Nathalie Alony for her project Home Sweet Home are both humorous and poignant. Arranged in a massive grid, the artist’s sardine can dioramas serve as a metaphor for the confined apartments in which we nest. These intricate figurines—men, women, children, beloved pets—each exist within the limits of their aluminum enclosure, building complex family and personal universes that seem to operate independently of the outside world. Despite the isolation of each piece, together Alony’s cans form a complex network that wakes and rests as a unified community, separated only by thin, delicate metal.
Like strange dollhouses, these precious sardine can apartments allow us to navigate and to find meaning in the rituals of domestic life. Much of the action portrayed here is banal: the routine laundering of children’s clothes, the checking off of days on a calendar, the painting of walls. When seen in miniature, intricately rendered by the artist’s masterful hands, mundane home improvement tasks become endlessly enthralling. Here, we can be voyeurs in the most innocent sense, entering the intimate confines of the homes of others with tender curiosity.
Alony’s brilliant little worlds capture the lonesomeness of modern living; seeing the fourth aluminum wall pulled back to reveal precious, private lives, we yearn for a similar intimacy in real life. A home, carved out lovingly from a tiny industrial box, contains all the secrets and wonders of families that are not our own. What goes on in the cherished homes of others? (via Junk Culture and Lost at E Minor)
The Victorian doll is a symbol of feminine delicacy and piety, but the Scottish sculptor Jessica Harrison has turned that notion on its head, constructing porcelain figures and painting their flesh with vivid sailor tattoos. Harrison, previously featured here for her graphic and macabre figurines, subtly builds upon contemporary dialogues of sexuality and the female body. Where Victorian women were encouraged to be sexually modest, religious and sober, Harrison’s dolls adopt the visual language associated with drunkenness and sexual freedom on the high seas. Sailors, feared for their rowdy traditions, were thought of as the antithesis of the ideal woman, who was almost always middle class, white, home-bound.
Harrison’s dolls, like many Victorian woman, wear corsets and petticoats of soft, pastel hues; one even modestly holds a fan. But these seemingly coy women obviously have some ruffian pasts. Tattooed on one woman’s pale arms are the names of a dozen conquests: Daisy, Rita, Maria, Eileen. Unlike the figurines treasured by small Victorian children, Harrison’s characters seem to have anachronistically accompanied Sailor Jerry on his boozy pin-up filled adventures. Beside a budding rose sewn into the color of her dress, a lady reveals a pair of flying swallows, an icon that appears frequently in mid-20th century sailor tattoos.
Harrison’s impressive series coyly lays bare the deeply entrenched sexism, racism, and classism of the Victorian era, during which women were not permitted to vote or visit pubs. With their waists cinched and their hair powdered into elaborate updos, these seemingly fragile porcelain figures contain an undeniable grit that transcends all social barriers.