Cheryl Ann Thomas builds tall, thin columns of porcelain clay several feet high using the ancient technique of coiling. These fragile cylinders are then fired in a kiln where they will inevitably collapse, slumping and folding over themselves like a shed skin or discarded article of clothing. These individual pieces are then combined with others and re-fired two or three times to form larger stacks and conglomerations. The result is at once strikingly familiar yet utterly abstract. What appears to be a pile of soft fabrics is actually a dense cluster of porcelain coils, a trompe l’oeil in three dimensions.
“Relics 319, 321, 322 & 333” are artifacts of this process of patience and chance. The work is composed of four relics, as Thomas refers to them, numbered in the order in which they were made within her oeuvre, and colored by adding oxides and ceramic stains to the clay bodies. The ridges of the coils remain visible on the surface creating a woven texture. The play between interior and exterior, soft and hard, presence and absence imbues the sculpture with a haunting quality. It’s a vessel deprived of its function, a skin without its body, shrouded in mystery.
“Relics 319, 321, 322 & 333” is on view through March 28 as a part of Taking Form: Quality in Clay at James Harris Gallery (604 Second Ave).