Fig­urines,

Pasatiempo - - On­stage This Week -

Judy, by Melody El­lis, rep­re­sents an old woman with a fry­ing pan and beaklike nose. El­lis de­signed a house­dress for her that seems un­ex­cep­tional — un­til you re­al­ize it is stud­ded with tiny flow­ers that move. “All her joints ar­tic­u­late,” Leo­das said. “The parts move, like a pup­pet.” She gen­tly touched the piece to demon­strate how the head, neck, flow­ers, and legs moved — not an easy feat, con­sid­er­ing that the ob­ject is made of clay and fired at ex­tremely high heat.

If the kinds of tra­di­tional fig­urines for sale on eBay com­monly have a cer­tain cute fac­tor, the artists Leo­das has as­sem­bled for this show seem more in­ter­ested in play­ing with edgy im­agery, ex­per­i­men­tal tech­niques, and sur­pris­ing de­tails. Anne Drew Pot­ter’s imp­ish fig­ure Lisa Beg­gar is not only naked, smil­ing up­ward at some imag­i­nary per­son for a po­ten­tial do­na­tion, but she’s also un­painted. She is clay­col­ored from head to toe. Cyn­thia Con­sentino’s Girl With Squir­rel looks nor­mal enough with its girl in a blue dress and Peter Pan col­lar, an an­i­mal friend perched at her feet. How­ever, Con­sentino has de­signed the heads to be re­versible, and as Leo­das swaps them, the piece sud­denly be­comes eerie, es­pe­cially the squir­rel with its huge hu­man face.

Ja­nis Mars Wun­der­lich’s Woman in a Shoe uses nurs­eryrhyme im­agery. The frilly pink shoe could be right out of a chil­dren’s book, but the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe has prob­a­bly never been de­picted as a sharp-toothed green mon­ster. The pup­pets on the woman’s arm are like minia­ture ver­sions of the mon­ster-woman. The ex­pres­sion on her face is one of wari­ness, and her nose drips blood.

Pat­tie Chalmer’s ver­sion of Won­der Woman has a page­boy hair­cut and cel­lulite-dim­pled thighs. Rus­sell Biles’ cop­u­lat­ing lovers could be the im­ages on a black vel­vet paint­ing for sale in Ti­juana. How­ever, the open-mouthed cou­ple look more un­com­fort­able than pas­sion­ate. The coup de grâce is Biles’ de­ci­sion to cover the white-glazed clay bod­ies with black spikes. “Touch these,” Leo­das said. “They’re re­ally sharp.”

Be­hind the ta­ble where the fig­urines were be­ing tem­po­rar­ily dis­played, an en­tire wall of shelv­ing was de­voted to the stor­age of pack­ing crates. Leo­das said the mail­ing of valu­able ce­ram­ics has evolved to a science over the years at Santa Fe Clay. Fig­urines might be safe in a solid box with bub­ble wrap, but a hall­way in the gallery with pieces made by the artists com­ing to Santa Fe to present workshops this sum­mer showed possible ship­ment night­mares: some of the works were life-size.

Leo­das has worked to at­tract big-name ce­ram­ics artists to present a va­ri­ety of workshops, sim­i­lar to the Santa Fe Pho­to­graphic Workshops classes taught by high-pro­file pho­tog­ra­phers every sum­mer. Stu­dent par­tic­i­pants who at­tend the work­shop with Clau­dia Al­varez in June make stand­ing fig­ures based on a “con­cep­tual ex­plo­ration of the self,” and in a work­shop with Lisa Rein­ert­son in July, they cre­ate large-scale fig­ures based on a live model. A work­shop called “Soul Work” with Curt Lacross in late July in­volves life-size hu­man busts; oth­ers con­cern coil and slab build­ing.

What hap­pens dur­ing the five-day workshops is amaz­ing, Leo­das said. Stu­dents come to ex­pe­ri­ence the process of mak­ing a work like some of the ma­jor play­ers in the field do — from be­gin­ning to end — and to see how to re­spond to an idea. Af­ter­ward, she said, “we dry their work slowly and have ship­ping op­tions.”

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