Melanie Ferguson creates artworks that feel like shrine objects for natural altars, completely contemporary pieces found centuries later tucked behind waterfalls or the fissures in caves and tide pools. The sophistication has metaphysical finessing; they seem covered in spontaneous asemic writing, a quality immediately rendering them comfortable in the skins of their differentness. It is clay wearing the tattoos of timelessness. Even the less ornate pieces have an animist presence full of deep sky and charged seafoam, the occult presence of ravens, owls, and crows. There is also obsessiveness to her work in general that is generous and universal rather than solipsistic. We donâ€™t have to understand the words to absorb the language and intentions of these technically immaculate sculptures. We absorb it and understand much of it non-verbally. This is exactly what the artist wants, that we use the subliminal references on the surfaces of these pieces to find familiar gathering points of human consciousness. To this effect she says: To summarize these works, there is a land use planning term, wayfinding, that refers to creating community signs - icons, logos, maps - that lead to a community gathering place. Melanie Ferguson is coming into her own recognition as a great American ceramist. We feel privileged to be able to showcase this important series of work. Randall Morris, Brooklyn, 2018
Endowed in Some Mysterious Way, 2017 Hand built stoneware, sgraffito, underglaze; hand-rubbed coldwax finish 19 x 9 x 5 inches 48.3 x 22.9 x 12.7 cm MFe 43
The concept for this work came from a visit to Belize. This ceramic form was intended to be a study of a pelican beak with thoughts of Belize and monkeys in the rain forest. Somehow, the work looks like a raven beak even though it was always a pelican beak to me. As I etched on this, there was a bit of disconnect, as the patterns were very map-like, then they began to express a tinge of Pacific North-West Native design influence. Iâ€™ve come to understand that the richness of experience I take away from any given work is an understanding that even if the intent is to represent your thoughts, the truth most always reveals itself. I struggled with completing the surface of this work. It was well after I had completed this work that I realized that the reason I had struggled was that my inner intent did not see the freedom of delivering that which is known, thus the title of the work, Endowed in Some Mysterious Way.
Wild Pacific, 2018 Hand built stoneware, sgraffito, underglaze, manganese liner glaze, hand-rubbed coldwax finish 15.5 x 12 x 10 inches 39.4 x 30.5 x 25.4 cm MFe 38
This work continues infinite travel, yet it incorporates aspects of distraction. This form was created, fired, then sat on a pedestal in my studio for a year before I worked the surface, until one day I could see what its message was intended to be. I began layering pigmented underglaze in a way that I could see if traveling in space toward infinity. The last color is always a black build and I use the crudest of tools - folded sandpaper to scratch through the darkness to expose the light. As I began with random strokes, forms begin to appear and once recognized, I develop these to persuade their recognition. This piece was reveling all sorts of cluttered symbolism, cluttered by its materialistic and religious nature. Yet each symbolic form was followed by a bird, usually stationary in posture, as if to say, â€œyou have wings, you have choice.â€?
Crimson Light Floods the Horizon, was a work whoâ€™s surface was created with Belize in mind. My last trip to Belize, surprised me by all of the plastic trash debris washed ashore. The surface of this work expressed that thought with the movement of tides and undertow represented in the center and unknown tangibles tossed to the surface - chaos of the unknown, a new way of considering the infinite.
Crimson Light Floods the Horizon, 2016 Hand built stoneware, sgraffito, underglaze, manganese inner glaze; hand-rubbed coldwax finish 11 x 11 x 11 inches 27.9 x 27.9 x 27.9 cm MFe 41
A Path Graces The Flight, 2017 Hand built stoneware, sgraffito through layered underglaze, hand rubbed beeswax finish 19 x 15 x 15 inches 48.3 x 38.1 x 38.1 cm MFe 35
An Inner Calling Left Clues Everywhere, 2018 Hand built, stoneware, sgraffito through layered underglaze; hand-rubbed coldwax finish 16 x 11 x 11.5 inches 40.6 x 27.9 x 29.2 cm MFe 44
A Dauntless Soul Casts its Armor to the Advancing Tide, 2014/2017 Hand built stoneware, sgraffito, underglaze; hand-rubbed coldwax finish 16 x 9 x 9 inches 40.6 x 22.9 x 22.9 cm MFe 39
A Dauntless Soul Casts Its Armor to the Advancing Tide further symbolizes a fearless determination to justify the belief that earth was the center of the universe in a more illustrative presentation that is confronted by periodic conflict by way of symbolic icons - snakes, arrows, battle. In a subtle way, Iâ€™m probably expressing my own inner shame for not speaking truth to power with a louder voice in our current politically-dangerous time, as seen in the intentionally decorative nature of this work.
Eternityâ€™s Sunrise, 2014-2018 Hand built stoneware, sgraffito, underglaze, manganese liner glaze, hand-rubbed coldwax finish 16 x 12 x 10 inches 40.6 x 30.5 x 25.4 cm MFe 36
As a child, I would sit with my eyes closed and imagine space travel that would be infinite and ask questions such as, is there a stopping point? Mentally, I would force my mind to stop on a particle that had a grounding effect and ride that for a period as we both traveled forward. My thoughts would log: what the particle looked like and what we saw. But did the particle see it differently? What would happen if I jumped off? These thoughts manifest themselves in the piece Eternityâ€™s Sunrise.
Passport for the Spirit, 2014 Hand built stoneware, sgraffito, crackle slip, oxide stains, gloss glaze line; hand-rubbed coldwax finish 7 x 9 x 9 inches 17.8 x 22.9 x 22.9 cm MFe 40
Passport for the Spirit is another sarcastic reflection with recognizable aspects of lazy, enjoyable human nature exposed in its naked scrimshaw-like exploitation. Personally, I am in love with the ancient ivory perception of the base surface. By adding the overly glossy liner glaze, it is meant to represent a dark inner core that holds us exposed on its surface.
To Be Like Water is another infinity-rich surface. It was intended to pay tribute to early astronomers with an age-tinted earthly flow, perhaps a bit of sarcasm cast toward Ptolemyâ€™s belief that Earth was the center of the Universe (by symbolizing 13 earths - a reference to his 13 books describing earth as center of the universe).
To Be Like Water, 2014 Hand built stoneware, sgraffito, crackle slip, matte glaze; hand-rubbed coldwax finish 19 x 10 x 9 inches 48.3 x 25.4 x 22.9 cm MFe 42
Rippled Resonance Inhales The Way, 2013 Handbuilt stoneware (coil method), sgraffito, oxide stains, crackle slip 14 x 13 x 9 inches 35.6 x 33 x 22.9 cm MFe 6
Engaging Currents of an Endless Sea, 2016 Hand built stoneware, flashing slip, oxide stains, wood, iron, steel; fired in soda 13.5 x 16.5 x 11 inches 34.3 x 41.9 x 27.9 cm MFe 31
Engaging Currents of an Endless Sea is perhaps one of my favorite works. Itâ€™s all about floating, gathering, survival.
Flying Above The Storm, 2016 Hand built stoneware, flashing slip, oxide stains, wood; fired in soda 13 x 14 x 10 inches 33 x 35.6 x 25.4 cm MFe 33
Flying Above the Storm, is another survival piece representing feminine energy with its vaginal opening filled with all that is needed to fly. The way the soda effected the surface of this piece further supports that theme.
Ripe Berries Moon, 2015 Handbuilt stoneware, flashing slips, oxide stains, soda fired, heavy reduction 15 x 10 x 8 inches 38.1 x 25.4 x 20.3 cm MFe 27
Below Bitter Springs Butte, 2014 Handbuilt stoneware, soda fired 12 x 9.5 x 8.5 inches 30.5 x 24.1 x 21.6 cm MFe 17
Low Bank At Bitter Springs, 2014 Handbuilt stoneware, soda fired 11 x 9 x 7.5 inches 27.9 x 22.9 x 19.1 cm MFe 18
Their Eyes Grew Round Like Moons, 2015 Hand built stoneware, flashing slip, oxide stains, Pier Black liner, soda fired in heavy reduction 13 x 16 x 10 inches 33 x 40.6 x 25.4 cm MFe 30
Restricted Zone, 2016 Hand built stoneware, sgraffito, flashing slip, oxide stains, celadon liner, gas fired soda 8 x 13 x 13 inches 20.3 x 33 x 33 cm MFe 32
Battles Left Behind, 2016 Hand built lidded vessel; stoneware, flashing slip, glaze, oxide stains, gas fired in soda, bone, glass, dandelion seed, wire, silver, leather 17 x 13.5 x 10 inches 43.2 x 34.3 x 25.4 cm MFe 34
Urchin 8, 2013 Handbuilt stoneware, sgraffito, oxide stains, Korean Celedon liner glaze, flashing slips 13.5 x 11 x 7 inches 34.3 x 27.9 x 17.8 cm MFe 7
Urchin 12, 2013 Handbuilt stoneware (coil method), sgraffito, oxide stains, crackle slip 15 x 11 x 8 inches 38.1 x 27.9 x 20.3 cm MFe 4
Circles In The Sand, 2014 Handbuilt stoneware, sgraffito, flashing slips, oxide stains, celedon liner. Soda fired, heavy reduction 11 x 12.5 x 10 inches 27.9 x 31.8 x 25.4 cm MFe 25
Copyright Â© 2018 CAVIN-MORRIS GALLERY Cavin-Morris Gallery 210 Eleventh Ave, Ste. 201 New York, NY 10001 t. 212 226 3768 www.cavinmorris.com Catalogue design: Sophie Friedman-Pappas Photography: Jurate Veceraite Introduction contributed by Randall Morris Additional text by Melanie Ferguson
An exhibition at Cavin-Morris Gallery of the ceramic sculpture of Melanie Ferguson