Transforming mere earth into art, artists have long used ceramics to express the history of civilizations. Today, a new generation of ceramic artists from the Caribbean have taken on the mantle, using the medium to explore facets of Caribbean culture and history. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the Diaspora’s most important ceramic artists, from new masters to emerging talents. Whether figurative or abstract, a vessel or object, these artists are pushing ceramics forward in new and exciting directions on the world stage.
Using clay, Puerto-Rican ceramic sculptor Cristina Cordova builds enigmatic and theatrical figures, often exploring the tension between the body and socio-political dynamics in the Caribbean. The figures themselves feel like mythical bodies, influenced by her interest in Catholic iconography, Greco-Roman art and African sculpture. Her latest series, “Jungla,” (displayed this past summer at the Alfred Ceramic Arts Museum in Alfred, New York) places these ceramic figures among lush tropical tableaus, inspired by Puerto Rico. These works explore “the relationship between these human and geographic connections,” says the artist, prodding the nexus between Caribbean identity and the “intractable wilderness” of nature.
Haitian-American artist Morel Doucet portrays psychological landscapes through his ceramics, interpreting the natural forms of tropical flora and fauna. Doucet often uses nature to examine issues relating to race and climate pollution/decay. His latest series, “Follicles | Cells | Biota” explore tension between people of color and pollution in the inner city. Inspired by scientific research into coral reefs, he uses forms of bleached, decaying coral to explore the ecological fragility of these communities in America. “These two ecologies – coral reef systems and the Black community – bare the weight of unforeseen circumstances of waste pollutants and lead poisoning at the hands of environmental policymaking,” stays Doucet in his artist’s statement. Pieces from his series will be on display until January 5, 2019, at the Spanierman Modern Gallery in Miami.
Cuban-born multi-media installation artist Juana Valdes takes a meta-textual look at ceramics, not only creating ceramic works, but also questioning its historic use through global trade and colonization. For one recent ceramic series, “Colored China Rags,” she experiments with bone china. This was a product valued for its whiteness and translucency, and has a complex history relating to historic trade between Europe and Asia. Valdes disrupts its whiteness by inserting pigments, changing its composition and bringing into question its assigned value. These works try to “question how aesthetics and value is assigned and maintained through the production of mass produce objects,” says the artist in her statement. In another art installation “An Inherent View of the World” (recently at the Mindy Solomon Gallery), she re-contextualizes cheap domestic objects, like ceramics, to questions today’s culture of commodification.