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Jessica Stoller - Using Centuries Old Process for Contemporary Porcelain
October 23, 2011  | 

While visiting a contemporary art show this summer, I was surprised to find a figurine that looked so much like Meissen that I took a double take.  Looking more closely and speaking with the dealer, Marisa Sage of Like the Spice Gallery in Brooklyn, it became clear that the process used to create the figure was in fact the same process that was developed in Meissen in the mid-eighteenth century!  This figurine and the others here show how artists use techniques handed down through history to express their own more modern views.  Here is Jessica Stoller's artist statement to explain:

"Throughout my childhood my mother and grandmother collected numerous ceramic figurines. Nimble Ballerinas, elegant royalty and virginal maidens made up these specific tropes of idealized women. These works, often collected for their beauty, poise and grace, are ubiquitous to numerous generations of collectors, many of whom are women.

In my current work I am building upon the rich tradition of ceramic figurines, the commercially produced figurative and tabletop sculptures that have been a mainstay of the ceramic industry for centuries. These works often reflect social history and prominent cultural norms ranging from the cheap commemorative tchotchke dolls to refined European figurines. Historically, these figurines were representative of the social mores, reinforcing gender roles, stereotypes and expectations of the time period. Porcelain is a material which simultaneously speaks to its elite aristocratic past as well as its cheap mass produced accessibility.

My current body of work cites these past constructs and pointedly subverts their simplicity. I create alternate narratives of power and allure, establishing provocative female figures that break from the normal conventions of beauty and grace. These intimate figurative sculptures are physically and emotionally layered; tiers of cascading lace, netting and hair overtaking their emotionally charged bodies. I utilize the historic process of lace draping to create detail in the work, in which lace and varying fabrics are coated in slip (liquid clay). During the firing process, the material burns away, transforming the delicate fabric patterns to porcelain. I use this hobbyist technique with china painting and molding/ casting processes with more traditional sculpting techniques to create my multi-faceted works. The works reference the long history of the subjugated female body through the prisms of religion, history and modern societal restraints. The figures in my work range from Rococo nobility and adolescent girls in petticoats and bows, to women evoking religious martyrs of the past. The notion of these collected objects as predominately decorative, weak and inherently female are subverted as the figures depicted are purposely innocent and sexual, self-sacrificing and violent, powerful and unaware of the power they possess. Through figures with contorted face-lifts, bound feet with miniature dimensions, and oddities that inspire imitation and awe, I examine cultural ideas of perfected beauty and its relationship to the grotesque. Though seemingly benign in content and size, my figurines hint at an alternate world of intricate perversion."

For more information:
Like the Spice Gallery
Tel. 718.388.5388