Earthen Bodies: Ceramics as Sculptural Form / Slocumb Galleries, Johnson City, Tennessee

Earthen Bodies: Ceramics as Sculptural Form at Slocumb Galleries, Johnson City

Earthen Bodies: Ceramics as Sculptural Form / Slocumb Galleries, Johnson City, Tennessee
January 21 - February 14, 2014

The ETSU Department of Art & Design and Slocumb Galleries in partnershp with the Urban Redevelopment Alliance present “Earthen Bodies: Ceramics as Sculptural Form” from January 21 to February 14, at the Tipton Gallery.

Most often, ceramics is associated with vessels and utilitarian objects, and has provided an excellent array of functional forms overshadowing its aspect as equally remarkable medium for other sculptural configurations. This show is curated to celebrate the figurative and non-utilitarian form of ceramic as art form. Ceramics is one of the more popular and established craft media in Southern Appalachian region, and this malleable medium has evolved to various permutations and tactile experimentations. The exhibition “Earthen Bodies” features works that provide diverse perspectives and a range of styles and utilization of ceramics as medium for sculpture.

The invited artists from the Tri-states of Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia are Sally Brogden, Melisa Cadell, Carol Gentithes, Mindy Herrin, Kevin Kao, Richard Kortum, Val Lyle, AJ Masterson, and Ed Miller.
Curated by Karlota Contreras-Koterbay.

ETSU faculty Mindy Herrin and alumni Melisa Caddell both create meticulous and complex figurative sculptures, mostly investigating the female body fabricated with other media such as encaustics and metal works. Herrin describes her work as depicting dialogue as surfacing in the “guise of affliction or struggle.” Her anatomical heroines illustrate women’s physical struggle and mental perspectives in its aspiration to overcome the body’s limitation. In parallel, Cadell’s elongated, and at times emaciated or mutated figures are visualization of her thoughts on “confinement and transcendence of the human body”, often as efforts to provoke dialogue on issues such as mortality and the unexpected consequences of genetics and technology.

This common thread of employing the female body is also prevalent on the works of Val Lyle. Lyle’s ceramic torsos made from clay are gestural forms that are characterized as sensual, organic and emotive as the artist strives to relate to the viewers on a “primitive level”.

Last year’s Positive Negative national juried exhibit’s Best of Show awardee Kevin Kao’s work also explores the human form, yet his figures portray a very different crowd from the female sculptors in the exhibition. Most obvious are the androgynous or male subjects and its uncanny statement on race and identity. Kao’s “character-objects are surreal images that portray whimsy, pain and satisfaction,” at times reminiscent of ‘super flat’ aesthetics and anime generation. This younger generation of Kao, Ed Miller and AJ Masterson employ humor on their work, at times anthropomorphing animal figures. In this era of social networking, artists like Miller who considers his work as form of journalism as he “observe the world and report my findings through sculpture”, it is not surprising to find quirky LOL animals and complex ‘selfies’ in 3D.

Equally whimsical are the animal figures of Carol Gentithes that are product of her reading and visual interpretations of art history, literature and mythology. Gentithes describe her art as visual language that focus on the “absurdity, unpredictability and unruliness of life.”

Different from the other artists’ work in the exhibition are the ‘closed vessels’ of ETSU philosopher Richard Kortum who creates large scale vessel-like ceramic forms that are non utilitarian, showing prowess in the technique and experimentation of various firing processes. His work has a similar vein with University of Tennessee Knoxville’s ceramic faculty Sally Brogden’s work, that are more formal, abstracted, and often with ambiguous references. Brogden’s recent objects benefit from the “memory of touch as they embrace the vagaries of process, glaze variation and corporal imperfection.”

Tipton Gallery Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 6 pm, First Fridays and ArtIfact Thursdays from 6 to 8 pm, and by appointment.

Tel. (423) 483-3179

Slocumb Galleries (East Tennessee State University)
Tipton Gallery
126 Spring St.
Johnson City, TN 37614
United States

Above: Carol Gentithes (Johnston & Gentithes Studios), Nature in Harmony with Us, Porcelain, 9x15x11 in.

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