Elena Mahno is an artist who splits her time between Toronto, Canada and Brooklyn, NY. Born in Moldova, she lived across Eastern Europe and the Caucasus prior to immigrating to Canada in the late 1990s. Her sculptural expressive forms are often inspired by the visual vocabulary across these cultural contexts and explore themes of identity, womanhood, and diverging life paths. Most recently, her vessels were part of the 1000 VASES in Paris during Maison et Objet and exhibited in Toronto’s DesignTO, earning a People’s Choice Award for the best window installation. Elena is a self-taught ceramicist, having taken instruction at La Meridiana International School of Ceramics (Florence, IT) as well as BKLYN Clay & Greenwich House Pottery (New York, NY). She holds a master’s degree in sciences from the University of Toronto with a focus on materials and their healing properties.
“Although trained in visual arts at an early age, I arrived at clay as a therapeutic experience to reground from the increasingly digital nature of our daily lives. Clay materiality and the embodied experience of ceramic-making pulled me in to establish a practice. In it, I seek an intentional and generative relationship with materials: as I guide clay into loosely imagined forms, it offers its own ideas, introducing a welcomed element of randomness that honors the material and its natural properties. For this reason, my primary focus is often on the clay body, emphasizing the form while keeping the surfaces minimal. Typically, my previous works establish a lineage for the coming explorations, whereby all my pieces feel interconnected.
Conceptually I often explore themes around identity and womanhood. During the past few years of uncertainty, I’ve been experiencing a sense of déjà vu — the loss of control, the limbo and the resurgence all somehow felt familiar. I realized that similar feelings accompanied my immigration from Moldova decades earlier. With monumental events still rippling around the world, I reflect on how they leave a wake of life paths unlived. Using coils and slabs of clay, I explore identities left behind or hidden under the surface through abstraction of silhouettes rooted personal memories in times of change. Feminine but at times child-like organic forms enclose voluminous spaces in a manner more akin to sculpture than craft. Through these, I strive to memorialize these parts of ourselves, while bridging the past and the present.”
Visit Elena Mahno’s Instagram page.