“Making In Between: Queer Clay,” now on exhibit at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona, explores topics like identity, sexuality, acceptance and artistic expression through a wide array of pieces by 12 different artists.
Artists Julia Kunin and Alex Anderson came together to discuss their pieces and similar topics on Sept. 14 during an online “Artists in Conversation” event, which was open to the public and led by co-curators Beth Ann Gerstein and Pam Aliaga.
In her introduction, reminiscent of the messages on the museum’s website as well as the wall introducing the art inside the museum, Gerstein, who is also the executive director of AMOCA, explained how this exhibition is the second in the “Making In Between” series. This exhibition focuses solely on queer artists, both historic and contemporary.
“Presented together for the first time, these works exemplify the compelling contributions of queer artists to the western art canon,” Gerstein said.
Upon walking in, visitors are greeted by a green title wall introducing all of the featured artists’ names: Sascha Brastoff, Howard Kottler, Mark Burns, Ramekon O’Arwisters, Grayson Perry, Larry Buller, Julia Kunin, Vick Quezada, Nicki Green, Alex Anderson, Karla Ekatherine Canseco and Tamara Santibañez.
As visitors venture past the title wall and look immediately to their right, they are met with the work of guest speaker and artist Alex Anderson.
In the context of imagery and queer coding, which was discussed during the artists’ talk, Anderson describes his work as camp, fun and playful. His work involves elements of gay male culture specifically and elements of the more intersectional aspects of what it means to be a gay male.
One piece that he shared during the discussion is “Boy With a Pearl Necklace,” purposefully reminiscent of the well known Johannes Vermeer piece, “Girl With a Pearl Earring.”
It features a similar outline, but this time it’s composed of more geometric, modern shapes and designs. Another difference is that this person has a beard, a mustache and a pearl necklace.
“It’s queering a classical reflection of white western hetero-patriarchal culture,” Anderson said.
He said that giving the figure who serves as the focal point of the piece a beard and a mustache challenges the original piece and opens up a conversation about this person’s identity.
Those visiting the exhibit can then pass through and examine a sea of artwork to get to the back wall, which is situated in the middle of the room similarly to the title wall. On this wall, observers will find various pieces by guest speaker and artist Julia Kunin, including “Rainbow Dream Machine,” which she discussed during the online artists’ talk.
Similarly to Anderson’s work, this piece includes many symbols and instances of queer coding. “Rainbow Dream Machine” is an intricate ceramic piece glazed with a subtle yet undeniable rainbow luster.
Though the piece includes many symbols like a wrench, keyholes and anatomical images, the focal point seems to be the labrys form in the center of the work, which is a popular lesbian and feminist symbol.
Though separate, she said, the symbols all together create one living, breathing organism. She likes the idea of this type of symbolism and coding and said that “embedded in it is sort of a historical accumulation of imagery.”
On the topic of belonging, acceptance and identity, which were topics also discussed during the conversation, she said it’s been great to be in this show.
“It’s rare to be in a show in which you don’t feel marginalized as a queer person or as a gay person,” she said, thanking the curators. “Even in a show that’s completely LGBTQ, it’s so important that it’s at a prominent museum that shows all kinds of work.”
The exhibition runs through the end of December.
Olivia Modarelli can be reached at email@example.com.