Claudia Alvarez at Scott White Contemporary Art

By Castro, Jan Garden | Ceramics Art & Perception, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Claudia Alvarez at Scott White Contemporary Art


Castro, Jan Garden, Ceramics Art & Perception


CLAUDIA ALVAREZ HAD MANY GROUP SHOWS IN 2012; a fall solo show at Scott White Contemporary Art in La Jolla, California; work at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Nebraska; and work at Art Toronto and Art Miami through her Dublin Gallery, Blue Leaf Gallery. This review will discuss the work exhibited at Scott White and Art Miami by appraising the artist's themes, ceramics techniques and background.

To show children without clothes or barely clothed fighting--showing aggression or vulnerability--is to highlight the depth to which violence pervades the American culture. They are smaller than life-sized or the sizes of infants, increasing the psychological sense that these are, in fact, defenceless little humans. Their fighting or bullying each other demonstrates learned behaviour. The focus on girls with guns may seem at first like role reversal, but I remember growing up imitating the hero/villain scenarios seen on TV when I was young, so this has been going on for a long time.

As anecdotal support for Alvarez's strong and original direction in ceramics, I just saw The Sheik and I, a film about American ignorance of Arab culture made by Iranian American Caveh Zahedi. In this irony-filled film, Zahedi is making a movie in which his toddler carries a toy machine gun and leads some East Indian boys who are protesting Arab injustice against Indians. In a similar vein, poet Lisa Fay Coutely, recently awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, opens her poem "On Home" with these lines about her sons:

All winter long my sons have pointed guns
in my face and with their mouths popped
the triggers. The oldest wants to spoon me ... (1)

These are stories about normal children whose parents are letting the world know that their toddlers think it is fun to play with guns, to act out aggressive and other behaviours.

Alvarez's ceramic figures are not all girls; boys, dogs and other subjects exist. Yet focusing on girls shows that girls imitate all adult behaviour--sometimes the worst adult behaviour--and teaches us not just that we have to be better role models but that we need to address cultural norms that accept and even reward violence and rage. The pink hoodie is a feminised version of clothing that sometimes is worn by sinister characters, rap artists, or even victims of gun violence (Trayvon Martin); above all, the hoodie is a 'street' culture garment even if it is now 'fashionable'. …

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