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February 9, 2006 to April 2, 2006

A Delicate Constitution: Reconsidering the Decorative Aesthetic

A Delicate Constitution: Reconsidering the Decorative Aesthetic presented works that range from flower wreaths, to porcelain sculpture, to screenprints—all questioning the idea of the decorative object and its place in contemporary art.  This exhibition included the work of four women artists from the region: Linda Cordell, Carson Fox, Colleen Toledano, and Eva Wylie.

The objects presented in the exhibition A Delicate Constitution could generally be described with such terms as intricate, opulent, decorative, and sentimental. The four artists who participated in A Delicate Constitution, are loosely drawn to the formal aspects of Baroque and Rococo furnishings and interior decor, 19th century Romanticism, Victorian decorative arts, and Art Nouveau aesthetics, among many others. Whether it is the material used, the technique by which the work is assembled, or the themes addressed, each object presented  in  the  exhibition represents a larger recent trend towards the highly decorative and handmade. This exhibition is not meant to be a comprehensive survey of this trend, but rather a focus on the practice of four artists from this region who seem drawn to this movement either in technique or subject matter, or both.

About the Artists

Linda Cordell

Linda Cordell finds inspiration for her animal and insect porcelain sculptures in the history of animal sculpture in European art. The pieces reflect the lifelike realism and the classical style of such movements as the 19th Century French School of sculpture, Les Animaliers, and Victorian Staffordshire porcelain. The intricate and  highly decorative sensibility of Victorian and French  motifs are referenced in the realistic depiction of animals such as dogs, squirrels, and weasels, yet   their anthropomorphic behavior suggests an alternative interpretation: one involving human sexuality, violence, and death. What was once considered a fashionable collector’s item at the turn of the century has become a vehicle for Cordell to explore human behavior as well as our questionable relationship with the animal kingdom.

Cordell received her BFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Alfred, NY, and her MFA from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. She has been an Artist in Residence at the Clay Studio in Philadelphia and at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, WI. Her work has been exhibited in the Cheongju International Craft Biennale at the National Cheongju Museum, Korea; the Fuller Craft Museum, Brockton, MA; The John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI; The Philadelphia International Airport, Philadelphia; the Nancy Margolies Gallery, New York, NY; Main Gallery at the University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI; The Society of Arts and Crafts, Boston, MA; Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY; Baltimore Clayworks, Baltimore, MD; and the Clay Studio, Philadelphia; among others. Cordell is a 1998 recipient of an Evelyn Shapiro Foundation Fellowship and a 2003 Pew Fellowship in the Arts in the category of crafts.

Carson Fox

Carson Fox has been developing two bodies of work simultaneously for several years: one involving floral pieces formed into wreaths and kissing balls; and one involving the use of thin wire fashioned into delicate screens of patterned lace or text. Both bodies of work stem from and interest in memorial or funerary motifs--both in their enticing beauty as well as their symbolic history in American Southern culture.

Fox’s floral wreaths also reflect a sense of dread and uncertainty despite their lush and elegant appearance.   These works incorporate glitter with  silk flowers, butterflies, and birds, yet the flowers are used to create a text message that is often contradictory to the elegant composition of the display. For example, a lovely mint green heart shaped wreath reads “LIAR” while a light blue diamond shaped work is inscribed with the word “FRAUD”. Fox states, “I seek a dual role: to allow for fleeting escape into a fantasy world of sparkling surfaces, before drawing you back to confront contradictory materials, text, or uncomfortable placement.”

Fox’s wire sculptures are inspired by memorial hair jewelry of the Victorian era. Finely wrought from thin strands of wire, Fox weaves the pieces into text or into a filigree pattern that not only reference the universal motif of the memento or commemorative object, but her personal sense of loss and remorse after the sudden death of her parents in 2001.

Fox received a BFA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MFA from Rutgers University, NJ. She has had numerous solo exhibitions and has participated in many national and international group exhibitions, for example: the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff, Wales; the Brunswiker Pavilion in Kiel, Germany; the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, NJ; and the Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia. Her recent solo exhibitions include : Louche,  Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, Boulder, CO; Reliquary, Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, NY; the Fleisher Art Memorial Challenge Exhibition, Philadelphia; and Broken, O.K. Harris Works of Art, New York, NY; among many others. She is the recipient of a Mid-Atlantic Foundation Grant, New Jersey Council on the Arts Fellowship/Grant in Sculpture, and an Emil Cresson Award. Her work is included in many public and private collections, including the Museum of Arts and Design, New York, the Royal Museum of Belgium, Hofstra Museum, Hempstead, the Jersey City Museum, Jersey City, NJ, and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts, Philadelphia. Fox is represented by Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, NY.

Colleen Toledano

Colleen Toledano is powerfully influenced by outward signs  of traditional femininity. Whether it is a perfume bottle  or  a compact  of  blush, a hair comb or a garter belt, Tolendano indulges in the superficial beauty of these objects, seducing the viewer  through   the  polished   and  intricate  surfaces  created through the use of porcelain, pewter, or sterling silver. Upon closer inspection, however, most of these objects have secondary, functional purpose as an object for defense.  Decorative objects more familiar to women turn into powerful weapons: a perfume bottle transforms into a grenade, a metal comb becomes a brass knuckle, or a blusher can be used as a harpoon. As Toledano states, “The neediness for the pieces to be part of the viewers’ lives is derived from the outward beauty and delicacy of the pieces and the viewers’ sudden realization of what the object is meant for and how it can be utilized.”

Toledano studied at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and received her MFA from Ohio University School of Art in 2004. She was the 2005 Philip C. Curtis Artist In Residence in Ceramics at Albion College, Albion, MI. Most recently her work has been exhibited in Winter Solstice IV, both at the Westchester Arts Council, White Plains, NY and The Studio: An Alternative Space for Contemporary Art in Armonk, NY. She has also exhibited at The Clay Studio, Philadelphia; Afif Gallery, Philadelphia; and the Millard Grand Project, St. Pancras Chambers, London. Toledano lives and works in Erie, PA.

Eva Wylie

Whether the work is printed directly on the wall or is an intricate web of paper and fabric weaved into a sculptural object, artist Eva Wylie uses the screenprint as the primary material for her pieces. Deriving her imagery from the internet as well as other graphic sources such as magazines or product designs, Wylie displaces the content of these images from their origin and creates new forms that play with the concepts of ornament, structure, and spatial illusion. The meaning of the original image is stripped of its significance and given over to a structure that becomes primarily ornamental.   In some, flat  screenprints  are molded into elegant   amorphous  patterns  resembling  a  patchwork quilt, while other works screenprinted directly onto the wall are rendered as a three-dimensional object. Each are intricately woven or printed, referencing more traditional concepts of ornamentation or the decorative object in American culture.

Wylie received a BA from Allegheny College in Meadville, PA and a MFA in Printmaking from Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Elkins Park, PA. She has recently exhibited at Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia; Artists Image Resource, Pittsburgh, PA; Allegheny College Art Gallery, Meadville, PA; Lancaster Museum of Art, Lancaster, PA; W. Made Gallery, Chicago, IL; Icebox at the Crane Art Center, Philadelphia; Creative Alliance, Baltimore, MD; and Cabrini College, Radner, PA; among many others. Wylie is a member of the artists’ cooperative Vox Populi in Philadelphia.

Tags: ceramics, fiber, installation