Jennifer McCurdy Harnesses an Island’s Natural Rhythms in Captivating Porcelain Vessels
The natural patterns of turning tides and changing seasons illuminate the delicate porcelain sculptures of Martha’s Vineyard-based artist Jennifer McCurdy. Responding to the shifts of island life—and “island time”—she draws inspiration from the surrounding environment and organic forms, like “the cracked conch shell on the beach revealing its perfect spiral to the milkweed pod burst in the field, its brilliant airborne seeds streaming into the sunlight,” she explains in a statement. Her wheel-thrown porcelain vessels capture both subtle and dramatic shifts in light and shadow, mimicking waves, gales, smoke, and flames.
In 2020, when, like many, McCurdy was obliged to slow down and approach her studio practice under the constraints of canceled exhibitions, she seized the opportunity to re-evaluate her own work, telling Colossal that “once my panic receded, I settled into the mindset of the sabbatical, exploring new forms and testing different carving patterns in the porcelain for optimal movement in the firing.” She broadened the questions she asked of her process and the influence it took from nature, such as how the rocks and shoreline met the surrounding sea or whether she could generate the energy of constant movement in her sculptures. “I think the direction of my work did not change, but it gained clarity from focusing on the space between and around each form,” she says.
McCurdy uses a translucent porcelain that she first shapes on a potter’s wheel and then manipulates, slices, or molds to create a sense of motion, often with a swirling or spiraling effect. A series of “pattern studies” highlight dynamic cuts that extend and slump with the assistance of gravity when fired upside-down in a kiln heated to cone ten—or 2,350 degrees Fahrenheit. With the addition of gold or platinum leaf on the interior, which is applied by the artist’s long-time collaborator, former sign painter, and husband Tom McCurdy, the vessels reflect light and evoke warmth, as if formed around a heat source
McCurdy’s work will be on display in Florida at Art Wynwood and The Palm Beach Show with Steidel Fine Art from February 16 to 19. In May, she will also exhibit in the Smithsonian Craft + Design Show in Washington, D.C. Find more on her website and Instagram.
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Linda Lopez’s Playful Ceramic ‘Dust Furries’ Pick Up Detritus Like Pebbles and Peas in Their Colorful Coats
Bending and swishing as if poised to wiggle right out of the room, Linda Nguyen Lopez’s playful ceramic sculptures just want to do a little cleaning up. In the ongoing series Dust Furries, satisfying color gradients complement the supple textures of the works, which have a knack for getting odds and ends, like a dust bunny under the bed, stuck to their “fur.” “The detritus ranges from rocks to fingernails to peas,” Lopez tells Colossal. “All the things you would find on the floor or in corners.”
Bright hues, a variety of sizes, and different materials combine to create each piece’s distinct personality. Stylized shapes representing lint or abstract cut-outs float over the surfaces as if attracted by static electricity, suggesting the gentle friction of movement. “Over the past three years, the furries have become more technically proficient,” Lopez explains. “The colors are more fluid, there is stronger fur, and the porcelain furries have jumped in scale.”
Lopez (previously) is currently working on a new public art project in which she will translate the ceramic surface into bronze. Find more of her work on her website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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Evoking Organic Growth, Toru Kurokawa’s Ceramic Sculptures Stretch and Swell into Abstract Forms
The natural growth process, which begins with the replication of a single cell and eventually produces bodily systems and lifeforms, informs the practice of artist Toru Kurokawa (previously). Based in Kyoto, Kurokawa transforms amorphous hunks of clay into organic sculptures that bow and bend. The malleable material stretches to reveal pockets of negative space or to generate undulating edges, and once fired, the works appear to freeze those movements. “I would like to create a space that fuses the two things, existence and non-existence,” the artist tells Colossal. “I am conscious of that connection.” Glazed in textured, neutral tones, the resulting forms are abstract and biological, conveying the tension and strength of change.
Kurokawa is currently considering how mathematics and physics can influence the geometries of the works, and you can follow that progress on Instagram.
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Mossy Figures Wander Through Woodlands and City Streets in Kim Simonsson’s Flocked Ceramic Sculptures
Some of the most exciting artistic discoveries are the results of accidents or the surprising outcomes of experiments, and artist Kim Simonsson’s series Moss People is the result of one such unexpected twist. Coated with soft flocking—a process of applying very fine fiber to the surface of an object—the large-scale ceramic sculptures were initially layered only with velvety black until a few years ago, when one day, the Finnish sculptor decided to flock one of those pieces with yellow, too. Once the crushed nylon fiber was applied over the black, it turned green, and the verdant figures have since grown into a cornerstone of his practice.
Simonsson draws inspiration from pop culture and Nordic fairytales and folklore, creating expressive, youthful characters who tote rucksacks, wear feathers in their hair, or carry important items like books, radios, or plush toys. For the 2022 Utopia Festival in Lille, France, he created monumental versions from fiberglass that lined a thoroughfare and appeared to wander amongst the passersby, emphasizing tender facial expressions, theatrical scale, and the sense that each individual is on a mission. The artist taps into a playful tension between the spritely energy of youth and the fact that moss naturally grows on hard, unmoving surfaces.
Atmospheric images taken outdoors capture the self-assured figures as they wander through woodland, equipped for an expedition. The most recent characters feature edible greenery and cabbage that grows from their limbs, torsos, and feet, providing both protection and sustenance. By producing and carrying their own food, they are completely autonomous, self-sustaining beings.
Simonsson’s solo exhibition Moss Cabbage People is on view at Galerie NeC in Paris through December 24. Find more of the artist’s work on his website, and follow updates on Instagram.
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Vibrant Coral Expresses the Power of Nature in Courtney Mattison’s Whirling Ceramic Wall Relief
In Courtney Mattison’s elaborate ceramic wall reliefs, the rich textures and hues of coral sweep elegantly across vast surfaces. Made of numerous individual pieces that she forms by hand, each composition references the fragility, diversity, and resilience of marine ecosystems, which she describes as an effort to “visualize climate change.” Currently on display at the Brandywine Museum of Art, “Gyre I” draws inspiration from forces of nature exemplified in the immense power of hurricanes and the delicate spirals of seashells or flower petals.
See “Gyre I” in Fragile Earth through January 8, 2023, and find more of Mattison’s work on her website and Instagram.
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Delicate Spikes and Lush Petals Bloom from Avital Avital’s Voluptuous Porcelain Vessels
The diverse world of plants and flowers is a source of fascination for ceramic artist Avital Avital, who crafts delicately detailed vessels from porcelain. In her studio in Ramat Gan, Israel, the artist sculpts slender petals, fragile spikes, and orbs dabbed with confectionary-like dots. She is interested in the relationship between functionality and decoration, drawing on the rich history of clay as a medium and mingling technical skill with conceptual ideas.
Inspired by nature’s boundless variety of forms and colors, her choice of material complements her subject matter: “I am interested in balancing between the delicacy of the porcelain and its strength and to use its potential transparency by sculpting colorful petals that are skin-like when directed to a source of light.”
You can find more of Avital’s work on Instagram.
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