BROOKLYN––rough edges, a recent solo show of ceramic figurative sculpture by Elise Siegel at Studio 10 (January 4 – February 3, 2019), featured a large congress of the artist’s busts. Expressive and penetrative, the artist employs the fragmented body as a vehicle to address the psychological.
Though each bust is of a distinct individual, they are not portraits of specific persons. They are, rather, embodiments of familiar emotional states: fleeting moments of inner conflict, disquiet, ambivalence and unease. As such, they exude an uncanny sense of vulnerability and project an interiority that creates a psychological tension.
The following is from an article and studio interview with Leslie Wayne:
Once you begin to engage with individual sculptures, you start to construct narratives. But even though you might be drawn in, you’re also aware they are not real living people, and the narratives retain a fictional quality. So the sculptures can be seen (or felt) as “characters” in the stories you tell yourself about them.
In this work, I am definitely not trying to depict an individual, or even a very specific emotion, or experience. What I really want is to allow the sculptures to be suggestive, but indeterminate; to draw a viewer in and be responsive to whatever that viewer brings to the encounter.––Siegel
Siegel’s inspiration for this work is wide ranging. In addition to the history of the portrait bust, she is drawn to figurative objects that once functioned in ritual or even in daily life.
Of particular significance are objects that humans have empowered and animated, such as idols, reliquaries, masks and even toys. Her sculptures take formal cues from the abstracted features of Jomon dogu figures of Neolithic Japan as well as the hollow eyes of terra-cotta Haniwah sculptures from the 3rd to 6th century A.D., medieval helmets, and African masks.
The essence of her work however, is a direct result of her engagement with her material. The painterly surfaces and facial expressions of the busts hint at underlying psychological complexities. The results are beautiful and mystifying, creating a potent experience for the viewer.
I think we have the capacity to connect with and respond to sculpture in an immediate, physical and emotional way partly because we inhabit the same space. We are in the same world and not separate from it.––Siegel
About the artist: Elise Siegel lives and works in New York City. Solo exhibitions: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Nancy Margolis Gallery, NY; Garth Clark Project Space, NY; Third World Ceramics Biennial, Seoul, Korea; Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan Univ., CT, Jane Hartsook Gallery, NY; Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS; and Halsey Gallery, College of Charleston, SC. Fellowships: Yaddo, MacDowell Colony, and three NYFA Fellowships. Other awards: Virginia A. Groot Foundation grant and an Anonymous Was a Woman Award. Public Collections: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Chazen Museum, Madison, WI; and Arario Gallery, Seoul, Korea.
Read the rest of the article, which first appeared in Two Coats of Paints, here.
Text (edited) from the gallery and the artist.