I'll be honest, even though I'm a consistent visitor to the galleries, 9 times out of 10, the Society for Cotemporary Craft exhibitions leave me feeling a bit uninspired(although the gift shop never disappoints).
But,when I ducked into the building earlier this month, I was blown away by Anne Drew Potter's work as part of the SCC’s current Bridge 11 exhibition. Potter's installation consists of toddler-sized clay figures that are at once androgynous and feminine, horrifying and charming.
Potter’s work reveals a deep understanding and dedication to craft – not in the pejorative sense that is sometimes used to delineate the difference between “art” and “craft”, but in dedication to practice. The figures are startlingly realistic yet rough too. Homuniculear forms face each other as if observed in a conversation of their own.
Alchemists attempted to create artificial humans - homunculus. Yet the actual wring of the alchemists might have been metaphorical. The homunculi may not have been meant as real creations but as metaphors embodying their quest to turn base metal into precious ones. Likewise, Potters little creatures seem to be metaphorical. These creatures tell us something. The are uncomfortable in their own created skin, raging to break free of the confines in which they have been placed. It is not surprising that Potter has commented extensively of her belief that women embody all aspects of human nature.
Here, Potter uses her hominculear shapes to make us look back at ourselves. Unlike a popular view of visual art in which its purpose is to express the unexpressable – to explain to use what it feels like to be in love, or to win a battle, Potters work as Barthes wrote Phillipe Sollers’ writing, unespresses the expressable. She forces viewers to reconsider representational art and what it means for something to be human or human-like. Because her figures, their gender, and their postures are puzzling, they are stripped of easy meaning, and unsettle rather than reassure the viewer.
The Bridge 11 exhibition includes the work of Lia Cook, Mariko Kusumoto , along with Anne Drew Potter and runs through October 22, 2011 at the Society for Contemporary Craft, 2100 Smallman St, Pittsburgh PA 15222.