Superfine! Miami art fair is in its third year at Miami’s Art Week. They are on the small side of the fairs during the week and they aim to show art regular people can actually afford. They also eschew the “big white wall” method of displaying, opting instead for a more organic , almost ramshackle exhibition. There was something almost homey about last year’s Miami edition.
This year one of the exhibitors riffs on pieces from the home. Kris Aaron and Andy Walker of Pansy Ass Ceramics are bringing sculpture and ceramic pieces from their studio in Toronto to Superfine! Miami. They find inspiration in pieces your grandma may well have had in her china cabinet--sort of.
“We are a couple and we share a love of vintage china and housewares. We've always been struck by the beauty and queerness of vintage china and how ironic it is that these pieces were often used and displayed in the traditional family home,” says Aaron, “We started collecting and initially began painting gay images and words on vintage pieces. We decided we needed a name and it only seemed fitting that it was unapologetically gay one!”
There were a couple other reasons for the name.
“We also wanted to use "Pansy" in the name because it is a derogatory term that we have always really liked. Its this beautiful, delicate, but really common flower that seems to grow in everyone's garden.” says Walker.
“We enjoy that people can proudly display pieces that say something about themselves in their homes. We specialize in sculptural work but we also create more affordable utilitarian pieces for those who don't have the ability to collect our bigger more intricate work.” says Aaron.
The fact that everyone can, and does, use ceramics everyday was also appealing.
“One of the great things about working with ceramics is that it has this history of being functional. We aside from our sculptural more decorative exhibition work we also have been working on some functional things like mug and creamers et cetera that, like Kris mentioned, bring an overt sexuality into the everyday.” says Walker.
“We model objects and then cast them in plaster and are able to make multiples from these moulds. This is the process used for most industrial pottery. So we work with elements of this, but we generally deconstruct the objects that we work with and combine them with others to create our vision.” says Walker. “So it usually goes concept, then we break it down into elements that can work with. We also do hand building, sculpting and coiling to create the forms , just a few different techniques for working with clay.”
Pansy Ass’ sculptural pieces are produced in closed, number series. Other pieces, such as planters and mugs, their more utilitarian pieces, are open productions that they make to order. They both design and create the pieces. Sometimes the two come up with the concept together and other times one of them has a solo inspiration.
“Thankfully our creative thoughts are in-tune and we share the same aesthetic taste.” says Aaron.
“We've created some naughty vases that I think people are really going to enjoy. We've also got some wall-mounted flamingos and banana pieces that will brighten up any room. And there will always be a few dicks on display. “ says Aaron.
Their work isn’t really grandma's china transmogrified of course. There are just some elements from that world. There are other influences as well.
"The vases that we are bringing to Superfine! are sort of our interpretation of classical Greek pots. in the ancient world sexuality was a part of the everyday life, and was well represented in domestic decoration,” says Walker. “This was something that was erased in the 19th century and made taboo for modern western society. In our work in general we try to reverse this shame associated with sexuality and desire, by bringing it back to a prominent feature of the home.”
The pieces blend the imagery and aesthetics of modern ceramics with those of ancient Greece. The forms are similar, the style is similar but there is an obvious modernity to the vases.
Aaron and Walker’s work, beyond the embrace of sexuality, also brings us back into times in our own lives. What brought them to create these pieces, and their love of the vintage, pieces has its roots in their, and our, past.
“I think our draw to vintage housewares comes from our childhoods. I think many of us have the shared experience of growing up in houses, or had grandparents, with shelves full of tchotchkes and bric-a-brac. Ceramics have this great ability to be collectable and are used in homes to create environments that reflect people’s identities, quirks and interests,” says Walker. “All art really does this, but ceramics traditionally were more accessible and made at industrial scales. We are totally obsessed with 50's and 60s Japanese ceramics. there are thousands of really colorful, stylized and campy animals that were coming out of Japan at this time. We both individually had a collection of these and when we met and saw each other's collections we new we had found something special.”
Head to Superfine! Miami (56 N.E. 29th Street, Miami) to find something special from Pansy Ass Ceramics for yourself.