Erika Sanada’s canine sculptures are both endearing and unnerving. There’s something sweet about her ceramic puppies (featured in Hi-Fructose Vol. 31) despite their zombie eyes and pale, hairless skin. The dogs play, wrestle, and cuddle, but the ambiguous details in each sculpture make it possible to interpret their gestures as either tender or malicious, or perhaps a bit of both. Sanada began creating these creatures as a way of coping with anxiety. She says they represent dark elements of her mind she’s had to tame. The latest installment of her ongoing, autobiographical body of work will debut in her upcoming solo show, “Odd Things: Daydreaming,” which opens November 28 at Antler Gallery in Portland and runs through December 31.
Zemer Peled’s porcelain work emerges from an inherently violence process. She smashes her handmade ceramics to pieces and uses the shards as new sculpting material. Peled constructs organic shapes out of the jagged fragments, evoking floral arrangements and at times, biomorphic, abstract masses. But despite her freeform, intuitive process, the Israeli artist creates her final sculptures with great attention to organization and detail. The shards appear nearly uniform and are carefully juxtaposed next to one another to create rhythmic shapes that emulate nature.
Russian-born artist Sergei Isupov investigates binaries in human relationships — male and female, good and evil, beautiful and grotesque. Using clay as both a material for three-dimensional expression and as a canvas for his illustrations, Isupov capitalizes on all properties of what he finds to be the most open medium. He sculpts human and animal figures, and then adds illustrations in glaze. The paintings diffuse into the clay’s surface, like tattoos on his sculptures’ skin. Taken together, the two- and three-dimensional elements of his work establish a compacted but powerful scene of emotions and narratives.
Like Alice eagerly hoisting herself into the opening of the rabbit hole, the characters in Megan Bogonovich’s ceramic sculptures appear to be the protagonists of fantastical adventures. The anachronistic, well-heeled women climb into elaborate sea anemones and coral reefs in a bizarre clash of nature and civilization. The sea anemones are enormous compared to the tiny humans; the structures’ different layers stack up like the elaborate architectural designs of storybook castles. With their pastel colors and ornamental details, the underwater creatures seem to make suitable homes for the ladies in A-line skirts and kitten heels, as bizarre as it may seem.
Katharine Morling’s monochromatic ceramic sculptures carefully utilize black lines to create the illusion of two-dimensionality. Morling sculpts mundane objects out of a brittle, white clay, laying them out like still lifes that resemble ballpoint pen doodles on paper. The doodle-like quality is an important aspect of the work. Morling isn’t interested in building ceramic replicas of cameras or typewriters: Instead, she reinterprets them with her hands and her imagination, inviting us to consider how the objects that surround us shape our thinking.
Courtney Mattison’s ceramics are clearly inspired and motivated by the ocean — that immense, powerful and precious resource whose details are still largely hidden from us. Self-identifying as both an artist and “ocean advocate,” Mattison has created massive installations, “Our Changing Seas, I-III,” that cover a bio-diverse selection of coral reef forms. Displayed in a gallery, the pieces appear to grow out of the wall, as if miraculously alive in the dry, alien atmosphere. The ceramic medium allows for remarkable ranges in color, spanning the spectrum of actual living coral to the bone-dry, matte whiteness of its dead state. Both versions are present in Mattison’s pieces, reminding us that these entities are desperately in need of preservation. “Our Changing Seas III” is currently on view at the Tang Museum at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY.