Cheryl Ann Thomas refers to her porcelain sculptures as “relics or “artifacts,” alluding to the process by which they are created as well as to a sense of their being fragile remnants of time passed.
Meticulously layering thin, serpentine strands of clay, Thomas begins by creating tall columns (generally 4 to 5 feet high) that are intended to “fail” and collapse in the kiln, incorporating the concept of chance or happenstance into the work, as the title of the show suggests.The resultant “ruins” are then conjoined and fired once again, creating and recreating, by design and chance, a paradoxical syntax of temporal consumption and destruction, meticulous order and arbitrary chaos… In Thomas’s own words, “[the] work is an intimate and experiential inquiry into fragility and loss. I construct, I sabotage, I reconcile.” It is ritual in the guise of craft.
The works are invested with an enigmatic and emotional presence that recalls the gesture of the body or the movement of cloth, while retaining evidence of the artist’s hand, apparent in the rhythmic, repetitive patterning of the coils. Allowing the visibility of the process is important to Thomas. In doing so, her work emphasizes the vulnerability of the unfired clay while revealing that this frail material acquires strengthin the firing process. Reflective of the long honored tradition of form over material, the rigid porcelain appears to be fluid folds of cascading cloth – recalling the virtuosity of pleated drapery rendered in marble, as in Greco-Roman sculpture.
Thomas chooses a muted palette for her work – pale creams, yellows, celadon greens and shades of gray to near black. She often interweaves into the coils an unexpected strand of electric blue or a contrasting strip of white, like the flash of a vein of treasured ore. These lines of colorsubtly lead the eye around the sculpture’s flowing contours.
Cheryl Ann Thomas graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA in 1982. Her sculptures have appeared in solo and group shows in New York and Los Angeles. Her work is included in the collections of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Long Beach Museum of Art, and the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto, Canada.
Plochere, Michelle. “Origin Stories,” The Times Quotidian, January 23, 2011.
Levin, Elaine. “Fragility and Loss,” Ceramics: Art and Perception, No. 85, 2011, p. 29.
Ibid, p. 30.