“We find a very specific sensibility in the sculpture work of women,” says Kim Hostler, of the celebrated New York gallery, Hostler Burrows. “This is not to say that it is necessarily ‘feminine,’ but there is a vulnerability, and sometimes a delicacy, that could be ascribed to the female. It is less ego driven than some of the other work we see.”
As the year of the woman rallies on, female artists are taking their place among the globe’s most celebrated sculptors and ceramicists. For Hostler and her business partner Juliet Burrows, however; little has changed. Founded in 1998, Hostler Burrows has long championed women sculptors and ceramicists. The only difference is, with the ceramics market hotter than ever, women are finally among those people who are being recognized as those propelling the medium forward.
Hostler theorizes that the sudden popularity of ceramics could be a reaction to the computer. “Ceramics,” she says, “feature very physical and direct evidence of the artist’s hand at work.” There’s never been a better time to discover the medium, really. The market is loaded with exciting new creations by ceramicists like Eva Zethraeus, Anat Shiftan, and other femals artists who merge poetic subject matter with arresting organic forms. Here, Hostler sheds light on some of the most compelling women working in ceramics today.
Born in Sweden and raised in London and Madrid, Sweden-based artist Eva Zethraeus has long sourced inspiration from botanical and biological specimens. She credits Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych, Garden of Earthly Delights among her earliest influences, as well as an artist residency in Japan in which she was first introduced to zen gardens. In her newest series of work, Zethraeus has zeroed in on the virus and the unexpected beauty its life cycle. Propelled by themes such as replication and duality, Zethraeus has created a series of ceramic creatures that, as Hostler describes them, “push the boundaries of the medium to create a new language in porcelain.”
Swedish artist Frida Fjellman is trained in both ceramics and glasswork. Early on in her career, Fjellman opted to take a rebellious approach to the Scandinavian aesthetic. Rather than focusing on Scandinavian minimalism, Fjellman directed her attention to figurative studies. As her career evolved, Fjellman’s figurative studies gave way to architectural installations, including a series of colorful prismatic glass chandeliers. The chandeliers, inspired by gems, gradually grew in size as Fjellman aimed to increase their spectacle—yet another rebuke to traditional Scandinavian ideals. Although Fjellman strays from the Scandinavian aesthetic on the surface, her work remains inherently tied to the landscape and rooted in the culture’s organic ideals.
Born in Israel, artist Anat Shiftan’s early education merged literature, philosophy and ceramics. The intersections are on obvious display among Shiftan’s ceramics, which are based on floral and zoological abstractions. Most recently on display at Hostler Burrows was Shiftan’s Flora series. The series pays homage to the tradition of still life centerpieces, but gives the concept a surrealist twist. “The arrangements are seemingly neutral, but are actually symbolic,” says Shiftan. “When I make my floral piles, I explore the ambivalent condition of our relation with nature.” For these reasons, Shiftan has elected to style her florals after a generic flower rather than a specific species. Hence, mirroring our superficial relationship with the natural world.
After ending a dance career in 1979, Amsterdam-based artist Babs Haenen turned to porcelain. Since then, Haenen has been creating a body of work filled with abstract sculptures that feature exquisite detailing. In Haenen’s work form, line, and color are of equal importance. “They seem to dance together as one whole,” says Hostler. Among Haene’s many signatures is a muted-color brushstroke finish which is applied to all of her sculptures when finished. Although Haene’s sculptures are modest in size, their form is indicative of something much larger. Hostler Burrows will run its first solo exhibition on Haenen later this fall. “It is extraordinary to witness the vitality and exuberance with which she embraces both her life and work,” says Hostler.
Thanks to its delicacy, large-scale pottery isn’t something many ceramicists attempt. Kristina Riska, however, revels in the challenge. Known for her large-scale ceramics—some towering up to 8 feet tall—Riska has long placed artistry over traditional practice. To address some of the limitations presented by working in such a massive scale, Riska has developed a series of work-arounds. Since her pieces are often too large to fire, Riska uses a unique glazing technique that does not require a kiln to assume maximum luminosity. If an 8-foot tall vase sounds like more than your home can handle, Riska has also done a number of tableware collaborations, including two popular lines she designed with Kati Tuominen Niittyla for Arabia.
All photos courtesy of Hostler Burrows