Continuing through April 15, 2017
The French have a phrase for people who seem simultaneously attractive and unattractive: “jolie laide” (“beautiful ugly”). It applies quite aptly to “Pretty Not Pretty,” a three-person ceramics show that coincides with the annual NCECA ceramics conference recently held in Portland. All Oregon-based, the artists flaunt the expectation that clay objects must be beautiful, daring viewers to appreciate their gnarled imperfection. Hiroshi Ogawa’s irregularly shaped vases and sculpture, “Tall Ichirinzashi,” are indented and pocked, with glazes that seem to seep like lymph from open wounds. Brad Mildrexler’s sculptures protrude from the wall, sans shelf, as if they’re growing out of it like geodes. His three-part sculpture, “Sea Foam,” stands five feet tall and looks like a tower of froth whipped up by blustery seas.
The show’s most intriguing and disturbing works are by Amy Fields, who integrates spine-like forms into rectilinear frameworks. “Black Square” and “Brown Pillow with Spines” feature isolated pockets of sharp organic nettles, contextualized within elegantly geometric framing devices. There is something perversely corporeal — dermatological, gynecologic, visceral — in these fetishistic etudes. Like the thorny rose in Goethe’s poem “Heidenröslein,” her works invite us to touch, but at the peril of being stung.