Kimberly LaVonne, Kansas City, Missouri
Ceramics Monthly: How do you come up with the forms and narratives that are prevalent in your work?
Kimberly LaVonne: I’m always thinking about the bulges and folds found in human anatomy when I cut my slabs, loosely referencing historical anatomy illustrations and wax models that I have encountered in person, such as those found at the La Specola museum in Florence, Italy. The shapes are intuitively drawn onto slabs in one fluid motion; once cut, this edge guides the composition as the imagery is collaged together. Repeated rows of teeth reference my fascination with the bones of saints in reliquaries and their decorative applications within crypts. They act as small mementos to the whole and also have a figurative quality of their own. Intestinal imagery encloses borders of compositions, alluding to the duality of the viscera folded within us, not only as anatomy, but also as the essence of our own being. The floral motifs evoke a sense of celebration in life and sentimentality in death. Papaya, patacones, and nanche are woven in as a nod to my Panamanian heritage. These are personal mementos from my childhood; the myths and tales from this time sparked my curiosity and desire to seek out the preternatural in regards to the body and death. By bringing these concepts into the home via functional and familiar objects, I integrate ideas surrounding mortality and the means through which we are able to mourn, commemorate, and devote space for those we wish to remember.
CM: What role does color play in your work?
KL: Currently, I’m utilizing a very simple palette of black, white, and gold (occasionally platinum, too). The drawings are initially sketched out using fine and directional lines; I then transfer that same style of illustration onto my clay forms via sgraffito and mishima techniques. When using sgraffito techniques, I love the pop of white clay showing through the black slip and playing with the weight of the carved line like I would with a drawing in my sketchbook.
Similarly, reliquaries are often adorned with gold and colorful fabric and jewels. I prefer to let the amalgamation of texture and imagery act as a stand in for adornment on my forms. Gold accents evoke a sense of importance or specialness. They also reference gold fillings for teeth, or an accent to a saintly figure’s halo.