Tempered Beasts

Sep 22 to Nov 5

Exhibition on view: Friday, September 22
Opening reception: Friday, October 20, 6 pm - 8 pm

Tempered Beasts will explore expressions of the human condition through the use of animal imagery. Animals permeate the ceramic lexicon in both contemporary practice and throughout history—from cave paintings to garden protectors, visceral sculptures to playful vessels. Our relationship with animal beings is complicated as their role in our collective experience shifts from food source to family member, wild creature to domesticated friend. Humans determine the value placed on life—whether of our planet or its inhabitants—while often discounting our own animal instincts. The artists included in Tempered Beasts wrestle with questions of consumption, commodification, and identification by creating animal forms that capture the very essence of what makes us human—and animal. Participating artists include: Alessandro Gallo, Crystal Morey, Lindsay Pichaske, Adriel Tong, and Russell Wrankle.

Italian born Alessandro Gallo pursued studies in both law and fine art at the University of Genoa, Italy, and Chelsea College of Art in London, respectively. He has traveled extensively in the past seven years in pursuit of residency opportunities at such venues as the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana; La Meridiana in Certaldo, Italy; Seto Ceramics and Glass Art Center in Japan; and at the LH Project in Joseph, Oregon. Gallo’s work has been included in dozens of exhibitions, including recent shows at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York, New York; the Jill George Gallery in London; the Abmeyer + Wood Gallery in Seattle, Washington; and Ferrin Contemporary, North Adams, Massachusetts.

Gallo’s sculptures are at once both animal and human, as they pair heads of animals with the body language of an individual, exploring behavior, humor, and disposition. He says of his work, “I combine the animal head and the meanings they evoke with the silent language of our body and the cultural codes of fashion in order to portray some individuals, the larger subcultures they belong to, and the habitat we share.”

Crystal Morey’s exposure as a youth to the natural landscape has most certainly shaped her perspective as a maker. No longer in a rural environment, Morey’s porcelain sculptures convey insight into humans’ interactions with the world around them. She says of her work, “Intentionally or unintentionally, we are rapidly affecting changes to the environment that would have taken natural processes millennia. Through these actions we are leaving many vulnerable species and habitats frantic, facing disruptions and uncertain outcomes. In my work I investigate these actions while also creating an evocative and mysterious narrative that shows our interdependence with the land and animals around us.”

Morey grew up in rural Northern California, where she received her BFA from the California College of the Arts in Oakland, and her MFA from San Jose State University. A recent graduate, she’s pursued residency opportunities at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts in Newcastle, Maine; Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina; and the LH Project in Joseph, Oregon.

“What separates human from animal? What borders exist between the real and the imagined, the beautiful and the repugnant, the living and the dying, the creator and the made?” asks Lindsay Pichaske.

With a plethora of teaching experiences under her belt, Pichaske has inspired dozens of ceramic students at such venues as the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore; the College of Southern Maryland, at La Plata; the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington, D.C., among others. She herself was a student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill (BFA) and the University of Colorado at Boulder (MFA).

Pichaske’s creatures are simultaneously bizarre and beautiful, with their skins adorned in fir, sequins, seeds and other items one wouldn’t necessarily consider an obvious “fit” for clay. Material and process are clearly paramount in her animal sculptures. She says, “I spend endless hours stroking hair onto their backs, arranging the fur on their heads, looking into their eyes to make sure they are just right. My process is a labor of love, as I give impossibly slow birth to each one, and they, in turn, develop lives of their own.”

Now the Ceramics and Wet Shop Technician for The New School-Parsons School Design in New York City, Adriel Tong is a recent graduate from the ceramics department at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence. In 2010, he received his BFA in spatial arts from San Jose State University in California. Tong is currently based in Brooklyn, where he creates his ceramic sculptures that investigate a myriad of social and political issues.

“My works magnify and conceal truth. They are questions, comments, or answers to the phenomenon of our relationships and present day issues in society. I provide opportunities to be engaged with our cultural hearths,” he says. While Tong’s portfolio includes functional, installation, and sculptural ceramics, Tempered Beasts will feature Tong’s bold and often single-colored, near life-size sculptures that employ other media such as plastic or wood.

Russell Wrankle currently resides in Cedar City, Utah, near Southern Utah University, where he is the 3D Design Fundamentals/Sculpture Professor. He is currently Director at Large for the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Art (a 3-year appointment). A distinguished maker and teacher, Wrankle has instructed, lectured, and presented at such venues as Arrowmont Craft Center, as part of their Pentaculum working artist invitational in Gatlinburg, Tennessee; at the Fire symposium and panel discussion at Kansas University in Lawrence; and the Emerging Artist exhibition at the 2004 NCECA in Indianapolis, Indiana, among others. He has exhibited work across the US in states such as Utah, Virginia, Missouri, Ohio, Colorado, Oregon, New Jersey, and Philadelphia.

Memory, experience, the formal qualities of an object—these all fuel and inspire Wrankle’s making. He observes, “I sculpt gravity and within this gravitational framework I fold fetish, animals, membrane, eroticism, and sex into the subject matter. I begin with a formal concern; that is, can I reproduce an existing object out of clay?”

Tempered Beasts Related Events
NCC welcomes Alessandro Gallo, Adriel Tong, and Russell Wrankle as our visiting artists in conjunction with the Tempered Beasts exhibition. Tong visits NCC September 15 – 23 for an intensive residency, during which time he will make work for inclusion in the exhibition. Join him on Thursday, September 21, at 6 pm in NCC’s library for an artist talk. This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited, so pre-registration is required.

Gallo and Wrankle will be visiting in conjunction with the exhibition opening and will present artist talks on Thursday, October 19, at 6 pm in NCC’s library. This event is free and open to the public, but space is limited, so pre-registration is required. Additionally, both will be guest presenters as part of NCC’s October MEA Weekend: Art Educator Extravaganza (nominal fees apply). Are you a local art educator interested in learning about this exciting weekend of hands-on and demonstration workshops? Contact our education department at alisonbeech@northernclaycenter.org.

A special thanks to Traver Gallery in Seattle and Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York City for the generous loan of Alessandro Gallo’s work.

View the Catalog: