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The Many Faces of Clay: Dazzling, Dizzying, Dynamic
Ceramic Sculptors on the Cutting Edge
Review: Sherrie Gallerie
December 2008
by Kaizaad Kotwal

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© Photos Courtesy of Sherrie Gallerie

Family Flight, by Janis Mars Wunderlich

An eclectic exhibit of playful ceramics lights up the Sherrie Gallerie just in time for the holiday season.

The featured artist, Rain Harris, has created a new series of works inspired by organic shapes and forms and adorned with a variety of surface treatments. The rest of the gallery is devoted to eight artists that owner Sherrie Hawk has represented over the years and who have just returned from SOFA Chicago 2008 – one of the most reputed and well-attended fairs featuring sculpture, objects and functional art. Representative works by each artist, all who sold well at SOFA, make for marvelous viewing.

Harris gained local notoriety in the art world when the Wexner Center chose her in 2007 as one of only three to be featured in a show focusing on regional artists. Since then she has already garnered some fame in national and international art circles.

Her works play with notions of opulence and the decorative for the sake of opulence and decorativeness. Most of her works are not functional; even her grandiose teapots from former collections are more about the form and surface treatment than their functionality.

In this latest body of ceramic sculptures, Harris has created objects by repeating abstract motifs originating in the biological world. The objects, by their form and composition, garner a totemic significance.

Harris’ latest works, in bright colors from orange and red to blue and magenta, bear her signature decorative surfaces. Using both vintage and newly made decals, she covers her surfaces with patterns and designs that vary from the Victorian to the baroque. Often she will go further and layer the surfaces with rhinestones or other frou-frou.

These new works are exciting as Harris continues to experiment not only with form but also her mediums. Tangerine and Perennial are both closer to her older works where the surfaces are completely decorated, although even here Harris seems to me graduating towards a more minimalist aesthetic.

Perennial, by Rain Harris

In another untitled work, a large orange form is very minimally decorated with a floral motif. This less-is-more approach works well, making these pieces more nuanced and restrained.

The SOFA-returned artists also put on a dazzling show. Kurt Weiser’s porcelain works, intricately adorned with detailed painting, are whimsical yet meaningful. Two jars fused together like Siamese twins conjoined at the shoulders seem to be balancing precariously. The entire surface of this untitled work is painted with a dream-like landscape, plush with dense flora and beautiful fauna.

This paradise is interrupted by the presence of a human being, who does not seem like any threat to the environment, but rather seems to be lost in it. Yet, Weiser’s concerns about how humans coexist with nature become palpable in this gorgeous mise en scène.

Julie Elkins’ series of porcelain sculptures are absolutely brilliant. Stunning in their detailed finesse and technical proficiency, Elkins creates dark vistas tinged with humor and playfulness.

In Temple Teapot, the body of the vessel resembles a craggy cliff-like formation. A large felled tree halfway up the initial incline of the formation serves as the handle for the teapot while the spout is another tree atop the peak of the cliff. The focal point is a haunted house at the top of this precipice.

Created in a somber, monochromatic palette of grays and black, this work, like the others, seems like a set piece from a Tim Burton film.

In Lily Can’t Sleep and Exodus, equally replete with detail and mesmerizing story-telling, Elkins mines the theatricality of her works to the fullest. Replete with images of death and decay these works are refreshingly alive.

Janis Mars Wunderlich, a longtime artist with Sherrie Gallerie, has a new body of work wherein she continues to explore her obsessions with family, motherhood and the joys and travails of both.

Family Flight, a wall-mounted sculpture, features a large duck mid-journey, her back overburdened with a menagerie of creature all dependent on her in small and big ways. They all seem to be fleeing something ominous and the mother duck’s open-mouthed grin, wonderfully detailed with human teeth, gives her a feral, over-protective aura.

These sorts of contradictions and hybrid characters – part human, part animal – are the mainstay of Wunderlich’s whirling world. All Stacked Up and Mother Pig are zany, funny pieces that explore the symbiotic relationships between man and animal, and also between members of the same family.

One of the cleverest works belongs to Jack Earle. As you observe Untitled, it appears to be no more than a traditional landscape with a dog done in oils and encased in an antique, carved wooden frame. Upon very close scrutiny one realizes that the whole work is a ceramic sculpture. Even the back, where the wooden frame and the canvas are exposed, is realistically re-created in clay. It’s a work of genius from a one-of-a-kind imagination.

Sherrie Gallerie is located at 694 N. High St. Hours are Tuesday through Friday 11 am – 6 pm; Saturday 11 am – 5 pm; Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm.
For more information, call 614-221-8580 or visit

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