Updated: Jul 6
By Bryan Hiott
One of Capizzo Studio's featured artists is Portland-based Sophie Kendall, whose media include drawings, ceramics, and jewelry. "My work began primarily as drawings," she says, "helping me process relationships and different forms of intimacy." When she first began to work in ceramics, it was an interesting transition. "An art practice in clay has been a way for me to physically portray and explore my sense of humor and feminist values," she notes," as well as to realize my connection to nature through the very act of making with the material of the earth."
Ink Drawing on Paper by Sophie Kendall
Playfully Subversive Terra Cotta Tiles
Kendall's 4" x 4" hand-painted terra cotta tiles were inspired by the expression of personality and individual style we see in footwear. She extends that idea in this series to introduce the powerfully charged cultural discussion of gender identity in a way that is both serious and disarming. Cowboy boots mix with stilettos, wrestling boots mix with tassel loafers, Crocs mix with hiking boots, and athletic shoes mix with bedroom slippers that might have come from Stubbs & Wootton. The viewer cannot be certain whether Kendall's pedestrians are male, female, or non-binary. They have hairy legs, thick ankles, and toenails that, when visible, are painted with bold color. Is this a man wearing a woman's shoes or a muscular woman wearing a man's shoes? The tiles defy conventional gender norms of masculine and feminine. Gender is fluid and cannot be discerned merely by outward appearances.
Glazed Ceramic Pot: Family Dinner II
One of Kendall's other works that drew my attention was Family Dinner II, a 12" x 12" x 12" glazed ceramic pot. In this tableau, Kendall presents the figures' facial features and other body parts in relief. She articulated the pot in a way that allows what is on the tabletop on a checkered cloth to be seen from an elevated vantage point. When viewed straight on, the tabletop is partially hidden. The food arrayed on the table of this traditional gathering ranges from burgers and salads to noodles and other everyday dishes.
Kendall's humor is at work in this piece as well. One man in a striped shirt holds a bottle of Tobasco Sauce. His mouth is cocked sideways, and his eyes are narrowed under his unibrow. The bald man to the right holds a massive burger in one hand, his mouth wide open to take a bite, or perhaps the entire thing. The tassel loafers with mismatched socks and striped Adidas sandals worn by each made an appearance in Kendall's Tiles series. Around the table, a woman breastfeeds her baby as her other child, mouth open showing two teeth, appears to be on the verge of tears. The next woman in heavy green glasses has a look of world-weary ennui as she pours from a pitcher into her bowl. A little girl next to her in pigtails slurps her noodles as a kindly woman looks after her.
To view Kendall's work is to be treated to such nuances of personality. She is an artist with keen insight into her subjects, engaging the viewers' intuition as we try to sort out the drama and relationships behind each of the interactions presented. Your narrative may not be the same as mine, but the beauty is that each of us will have connected with her work and gained some insight into our humanity, which is one of the primary purposes of art.
Artist Sophie Kendall
Sophie Kendall is one of the featured artists at Capizzo Studio in Saugatuck, Michigan. She is a BFA graduate of Lewis and Clark University and has exhibited her art nationally.