Perchance – Ceramic Sculpture by Cheryl Ann Thomas
Coiling together thin, serpentine ropes of porcelain, American artist Cheryl Ann Thomas begins her sculptures with one of the most traditional techniques of pottery. Used by Pre-Columbian, Native American and West African peoples to hand-build large storage jars, coiling has a rich history in the ceramic world. Traditionally the coils were smoothed together and integrated, but Thomas leaves the twists of clay exposed, and imprinted with the mark of her hand. Speaking about her work, Thomas asserts that “relics or artifacts are the remains of a human intervention. These sculptures form a permanent record of my interaction with the material.”
Once she has constructed tall, thin vessels of coiled porcelain, Thomas fires them, and the weight of the clay causes the works to collapse and fold in on themselves unpredictably. Her early works were the outcomes of this process, while more recently the artist has begun combining these forms and firing them for a second time, creating assembled sculptures of greater scale and power. After firing her pieces and leaving the results to chance, “the resulting forms are exquisite and very delicate, richly open-ended in their associations,” according to Constance Mallinson for Art in America.
Thomas’s work is frequently noted for its allusions to the transience and delicacy of existence. Although the heat of the kiln is what causes the collapse of her forms, it also gives the porcelain she uses its durability and strength. In this way, the artist notes that her work “is not a metaphor, but a real and distinct experience of creation and loss.” Thomas has recently expanded her output to include works in bronze and stainless steel, which continue her meditations on fragility.