Humans are social beings; we share conversations, experiences, ceremonies, and daily life with others in our communities. We learn from and with one another. Together, we develop and share cultural and individual histories, beliefs, legends, and myths. 

Clay is a powerful medium for relating stories, whether ordinary or epic, personal or universal. Right now, while many of us are still missing in-person connections, the narratives infused in works of art can help fill that void, bringing us thoughtful new perspectives and leading to meaningful engagement, critical thinking, compassion, and growth. 

In this issue, we feature several artists who use the figure, whether in two or three dimensions (or both). They communicate stories that explore identity, relationships, creativity, and cultural heritage. They also examine sensitive, painful topics like adversity, war, racism, and injustice, as well as survivance and resilience. There is a similar emphasis for all of the artists on shared humanity. They present subjects with dignity, hope, humor, and wonder. Some work toward increased awareness/visibility and social transformation. In all cases, the artists create work that is accessible to broad audiences. Their goal is to engage, to get viewers to participate in constructing the story.

Stylistically, Janina Myronova’s sculptures—with their bold colors, simplified forms, and combination of two- and three-dimensional depictions of figures—draw from her Ukrainian and Russian ancestry, graphic novels, vintage toys, and pre-Columbian figurative sculpture. Human feelings are her subject matter and she focuses on close-knit family relationships and connections with people she has met during artist residencies in various countries. Her figures express optimism, joy, and care for others. 

Above: A snapshot of Tony Natsoulas’ portrait of the singer/songwriter, activist, and philanthropist Annie Lennox, which he completed just before this issue went to press. Natsoulas explains that the circle of neon represents the organization that Lennox founded, The Circle, which helps further women’s rights around the world. The objects in her dress help to convey information about her life.

Raven Halfmoon coil builds both smaller-scale and larger-than-life human and animal figures that relate Caddo origin stories and beliefs, as well as the complex experience of contemporary Caddo Nation people. Her powerful representations of female torsos and heads, often with stacked, repeating features and bold graphic color combinations of red, black, tan, and white, represent multiple generations not as specific individuals, but as a lineage. 

Juan Barroso tells stories rooted in the immigrant experience. These narratives are informed by his childhood growing up in an immigrant family, and living on both sides of the US-Mexico border at different times in his life. While his work highlights immigrants’ struggles, it also centers on themes related to the skills, perseverance, dignity, and proud heritage they possess. He does so through labor-intensive photo-realistic images created on the surface of vessels and sculptures using pointillism techniques.  

Tony Natsoulas mines Western popular culture, art history, and his own interests in iconoclasts and eccentrics to create sculptural portraits of real-life people and fictional TV characters alike. His depictions are serious yet humorous, presenting creative visual cues that allude to his subjects’ contributions and personalities. 

Guillermo Guardia creates three distinct bodies of figurative sculptures. He combines influences from his background as a Peruvian artist with Japanese and Andean roots, his exposure to civil war and terrorism in Peru, and finding his place and purpose in the US. The surfaces and color on his pieces show his interest in Japanese cartoons and Mochican culture. 

Pattie Chalmers depicts moments and interactions through figurative sculpture, forms poetic relationships among the stuff of everyday life through object assemblages, and frames narrative vignettes drawn on functional vessels. While she once thought of her role as that of a storyteller guiding the viewer, she has now views the relationship as even more of a collaboration. She still provides the vehicle but charts less of the path.

The articles in this issue demonstrate how the artists developed a self awareness, then used this knowledge to focus on subjects of importance to them, while creating narratives that invite the viewer’s participation. I hope that you will accept the invitation.   

- Jessica Knapp, Editor
Topics: Ceramic Artists