ABOVE SNAKES – Friday, July 7th, 5-9pm

Please join us on first Friday, July 7th, 5-9 PM for the KC Clay Guild resident exit show ABOVE SNAKES at ArtsKC. Located at 106 Southwest Blvd, ABOVE SNAKES will include work by artists Mike Cerv, Nell Hull, and Frank Thong.  Viewers will find large sculptures and vessels that comment on the artists’ identity within family and societal structure. 

For more info on the KC Clay Guild, visit kcclayguild.org.

Frank Thong Artist Statement 

Clay. I manipulate and warp this substance into vessels to teach others about social issues regarding the discrimination of Asian-Americans. With the potter’s wheel I contextualize clay into forms such as bowls, cups and vases in hopes that these objects connect me to others. With each piece I create from my hands, I hope to chip away at social stereotypes and to one day create a place where Asian-Americans can be represented. The intent placed in my work conveys complex conversations with brushed symbolic imagery using the vessels as a canvas in order to strike dialogue between object and person. 

From the East to the West I seek a combination of imagery and form from these distant cultures to capture perspectives, views and relationships between groups of people in America. Drawing concepts from Asian ceramics and my cultural experiences growing up, I compose functional, yet ergonomic objects that encapsulate the Asian-American dilemma. On the pieces, I paint symbolic imagery that reflects my heritage from previous familial generations. My brush is dipped in materials reflective of ancient ceramics to bridge into the modern era. Oftentimes people think about the well known blue and white ware, but my work inherits more than just that. From san cai ware to celadon ware and imperial ware, I allow for these historical techniques to caress the ceramic forms I make, to compose a reflection of my Asian-American experience. Whether that be a cup, plate, bowl or even sculpture it is important to me that these objects create intimate connections and generate queries about social injustice.

Nell Hull Artist Statement 

I started using clay to heal after the deaths of my grandparents in 2019 and 2020. I needed a way to process the grief and loss as well as the burgeoning acceptance of myself. I had already come out to close friends as non-binary, and used they/them pronouns. But with my family, I knew I would never be taken seriously. 

I made work that both encased grief and celebrated freedom. My work has more recently evolved to a darker dive into my insecurities, isolation, depression, and anger. I feel that every coil is an effort to eliminate some of my pain. 

In a society that is obsessed with the destruction of trans people’s dignity, I find solace in the solitary act of working with clay. In many moments, it has given me purpose and a reason to live. I am anxious to unfold the exhibition “Above Snakes” as a testament to my resilience and persistence through hardship. 

Mike Cerv Artist Statement 

Vibrantly enamored by their dynamic colors and patterns, my work strives to respectfully adopt and adapt aesthetic qualities from Russian and Levant art. This blending parallels my journey towards the rediscovery of my identity, both culturally and internally, as an adopted person whose heritage was hidden. As an adult, I’ve discovered some of that history: I am Russian and Lebanese; I am the son of an artist and mathematician; I am the only of their children. Unsteady on how it affects my interpersonal life, I craft vessels that implore these “new” identities with a confidence for their conjunction I have yet to find. To achieve this, I ornament each object with bilevel patterns pulling directly from the interactivity of Zellige and the network of lines it creates. 

Like the haze around my biological ancestry, the fired surfaces of my wares drape a veil of color and fog onto the designs pressed into them. Despite this, slip rivulets, clay burrs, and other artifacts of making endure as vestiges of where this journey takes my mind from day to day. Pulling from bright Soviet propaganda dishware, I accent the low relief surfaces of my vessels with colorful inlay glazework. The pierced templates I use to support my construction of each slab built object leave a reflection in low relief. Made of tar paper, these laser cut templates build a bridge between modern production methods and traditional ceramic techniques. With this mechanic as a foundation, my studio practice centers around play within process. 

KC Studio

KC Studio covers the performing, visual, cinematic and literary arts, and the artists, organizations and patrons that make Kansas City a vibrant center for arts and culture.

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