Honors: Angelica Sandoval

Ceramics artist Angelica Sandoval posed dripping with porcelain slip. (photo by Jim Barcus)

The KC Artist is Attracting Shows and Award for Her Unconventional Work with Porcelain

Clay’s seductive challenges reward the risk-taker. The walls of a pot or sculpture can be too thin, heavy slip may collapse an object and bad chemical reactions and accidents in the kiln can break your heart.

In her porcelain sculptures, Kansas City artist Angelica Sandoval embraces these potential problems and relies on wabi-sabi, the Japanese idea of accepting and embracing imperfection.

“My passion lies with the experimentation of discovering a variety of materials’ limits, pushing them beyond their boundaries, removing the material from its original context and assigning a new identity,” she says.

Through Jan. 28, Sandoval’s ideas are showcased in a site-specific installation at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Her “Empyreal,” encompassing roughly four-dozen individual slip-cast porcelain sculptures suspended from the ceiling, is included in “Women to Watch | Metals,” an exhibit presented in cooperation with the Kansas City Chapter of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA).

Sandoval creates her multi-part porcelain sculptures in handmade molds. Once a piece is dry enough to remove from the mold, she hangs it and pours separate layers of slip over it, allowing the layers to accrete. Because the forms are dependent on the mercurial nature of the slip — how Sandoval pours it, how it flows, dries, and then behaves in the kiln — they are all different from one another and feel alive, even, oddly, inquisitive. Each sculpture culminates at one end in a messy pucker, as if it might actually open or have just closed, contributing to the uncanny sense that these elements are living, sentient beings.

Sandoval notes that the works combine desire and repulsion. We are attracted to these beautiful objects, and yet, their surfaces can seem to be disintegrating or decomposing, like some spent, exotic flower. They are elegant and messy, visceral and alien.

In “Empyreal,” the individual porcelain elements are suspended from the ceiling on metal rods at varying heights and at multiple angles and lit with LEDs from within.

Angelica Sandoval’s “The Empyreal” (2017), made of porcelain, steel and LEDs, is on view in the “Women to Watch | Metals” exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art through Jan. 28. (courtesy of the artist © Angelica Sandoval / photo by Barbara Sullivan Photography)

The light gives them life, Sandoval says, while the varied thickness of the material distributes it to produce undulating hues. For her, the light elucidates “the transient states of porcelain, beginning as a creamy liquid and transforming into a tangible form.”

The zip ties that bind the wiring to the steel are also “important to the process,” says Sandoval, who compares them to “knuckles or veins.”

A Kansas native, Sandoval has taught sculpture and ceramics for 13 years at Johnson County Community College. She received her BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, where she has also taught, and her MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art, in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Through her Studio A, Sandoval creates sculptural light installations, light fixtures and porcelain jewelry.

She has received two ArtsKC Inspiration grants, one in 2012 for “Celestial Bodies,” an installation at BNIM’s 10@10 Exhibition Space, and the other in 2014, for Brazin’ Mavens, a traveling welding workshop for young artists, teaching welding for both trade and creativity. Her vision was to teach kids that making art and having a trade are not mutually exclusive.

One of Sandoval’s goals is to create a fully immersive environment including her work, sound and dancers. For Sandoval, the collaborative nature of installation is important and meaningful, and what could be more wabi-sabi, and perfectly imperfect, than adding human beings to this aesthetic equation?

Dana Self

Dana Self is an arts writer who was a contemporary art curator for more than 13 years at museums in Kansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Missouri, including Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. She has organized roughly 100 exhibitions of emerging and midcareer artists. She is also marketing director for UMKC Conservatory.

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