Long-legged creatures don otherwordly masks in sculptures by Bali-based artist Spencer Hansen, whose work explores identity and connection through a cast of uncanny characters. Using primarily natural, found, and recycled materials like wood, metal, bone, plant fibers, and ceramic, he draws inspiration from surrounding environment and frequent travels. Originally from Idaho, he relocated to Bali where he built a workshop that houses studios and live-work space for a team of skilled artisans who help to bring the pieces to life.
Alongside business partner Shayne Maratea, with whom he founded independent clothing and art company BLAMO, Hansen often collaborates with artists and photographers to merge sculpture and performance. Intended to inspire curiosity and play, the characters are carved and assembled in a variety of scales, from toy-like figurines to life-size suits, with mysterious faces.
Hansen will be showing work with Skye Gallery at Aqua Art Miami at the end of this month and has a solo exhibition opening in December at Samuel Lynne Galleries in Dallas. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram.
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vanessa german knows how to translate experiences. In her latest project with the Skinner Museum—Mount Holyoke’s early 20th-century cabinet of curiosities—she explores what decolonization means by interacting with the institution’s 7,000 precious historical objects. german finds past, present, and future in everything from Native American baskets to Samurai swords to pieces of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
By touching these great American valuables, the artist explores ideas of rarity and protection amongst the context of this country’s sordid history with distorting people, objects, and the inherent value of every living thing.
On an episode of The Green Dreamer, Gavin Van Horn from the Center for Humans and Nature talks about flipping our perspective from being head over heels to heels over head, instead privileging touch. “That involves us not just venturing out into the world in a way that we are just grasping what we need but being open. Think of our own porosity…Our skin is just a membrane…it keeps us bound together enough so we can think of ourselves as individuals, but it’s also a constant exchange of information between ourselves and the world around us,” Van Horn says.
german’s solo exhibition, THE RAREST BLACK WOMAN ON PLANET EARTH, began as a quest to own the story of the Skinner Museum by doing what no one else on Earth can do to these precious items: touch them. She found that she was not only grasping for something but that she was moved and found connection through the tactile interactions. While reaching for objects society deems valuable and in a reality where fat, Black, queer women are not, she was not granted value but instead recognized it already within herself.
german translates that revelation into a mixed-media installation and healing site so deeply rooted in place that it captures the concurrence of time. The installation, “MUSEUM OF EMANCIPATORY OBJECTS,” is made up of artifacts and words collected from the Mount Holyoke community related to questions of emancipation.
There is also a sense of freedom and groundedness across the show. In “THE FATHER SHOES,” one shoe has nails that evoke the feeling of digging into the earth, while the other sole features shimmery thread. In the pair, there is “one for leaving and one for coming back,” the artist says. Similarly, “WALK IN BEAUTY” is a sculptural rendition of knee-high boots made of rose quartz. This evokes the physicality of our surroundings (a path, movement, stone) and the emotionality of what such concepts represent in our everyday lives (the journey, the heart). No one story, element, or gift is valued above another. All are woven throughout time.
THE RAREST BLACK WOMAN ON PLANET EARTH is on view at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum through May 28, 2023. german recently was awarded the prestigious Heinz Award, and you can find more of her work on Instagram.
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Strings of Pearls Emulate Tears and Form Connections in Intimate Ceramic Sculptures by First of May Studio
For millennia, pearls have been treasured for their luminous sheen and range of hues and were first documented for their use as gemstones more than 4,000 years ago in China. Symbolic of luck, wisdom, and prosperity in cultures throughout the world, these organic orbs have given rise to myths and legends related to divine beings, often said to be fashioned from the tears of mermaids or gods. In Greek myth, it’s said that if a bride wears pearls on her wedding day, she won’t cry. Ceramic sculptures by Butaoxi Kao of First of May Studio build upon this history and express emotions and connection through strings of pearls.
Based in Taiwan, Butaoxi’s background as an illustrator and graphic designer influenced her interest in modeling with ceramic, which she began working with in 2015 following an injury that prompted a new way of thinking about her practice. In the ongoing series Tears are Pearls, she explores the universality of intense feeling and applies the iridescent droplets to express a range of emotions from sadness to frustration, pain to joy. Examining how emotions connect us to one another and to our past, the artist uses pearls in various shapes and sizes, which leak from eyes or link to other figures. Their upper bodies are often shaped into forms that resemble toys or games like jigsaw puzzles or swings.
Several new works are currently on view in a solo exhibition The Crying Game, on view at Yuri Arts in Taipei through October 15, which delves into the connection between childhood and nostalgia, evoking a connection to innocence, play, and deep-seated memories. You can find more work by First of May Studio on Instagram.
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The story goes that the lifeforms discovered by Monsieur Cailloux developed a third leg in order to gallop 200 miles per minute across the imaginary planet known as MRCX. Sensitive and spirited, the specimens are part of the Paris-based artist’s ever-expanding “tribe of pebbles,” a fictional population of blobby ceramic characters apparently capable of breaking the sound barrier.
Monsieur Cailloux began sculpting the tiny creatures in 2020 when he dreamed up a space exploration and an entire universe inhabited by the tribe—find maps of the planet and an animation detailing their evolution on Instagram— in order to explore new avenues in his ceramics practice. Now numbering in the hundreds, the rock-like figures are diverse in color, glaze, and body shape, although most feature small eyes and of course, a signature third limb for aforementioned galloping.
In creating the MRCX world, the artist shares that he strives for imperfections and allows each character to evolve naturally. He says:
I try to make visible the humanity that is hidden in us by pressing on the irregularities and flaws of a handmade work. Mistakes are then, for me, a source of happiness. For example, when (a piece) does not react as I had planned, I try to change my view of the sculpture in front of me to add or subtract an element that will make it beautiful. I end up with a result that is completely different from my initial idea, and it is in these moments that I experience my greatest creative joys.
If you’re in Paris, you can meet Monsieur Cailloux’s specimens next month in a show that opens on October 6 at Club Sensible.
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Philadelphia-based ceramicist Brian Giniewski (previously) is behind the playfully textured vessels known as Drippy Pots. Referencing a melty summertime ice cream cone or icing on a cake, the glossy material in mottled pastels, speckles, or single colors trickle down the exterior of mugs and cups. To contrast the neutral-toned earthenware of the base vessels, Giniewski throws simple shapes and then dunks the functional objects into a thick glaze.
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Tentacles speckled with glaze and bulbous suckers support the bodies of Mia Alajasko’s ceramic mollusks. From her backyard workshop in Onsala, Sweden, the artist sculpts squids and octopuses that stand upwards of 40 centimeters. Each creature is cloaked in several layers of glaze that produce a diverse array of finishes from classic matte white and neutral-toned crackles to sleek rust and mottled shades of blue.
Alajasko makes about a dozen pieces each month, and her next shop release is on September 28. Keep an eye on her Instagram for updates.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.