Nicole Cherubini: The True Density of a Clay Body
Stand in front of one of Nicole Cherubini’s pieces and try to not want to lick it. I dare you. The work is undeniable sexy. But it is also smart. With an alchemic eye, Cherubini unites art historic considerations of form with contemporary issues of body adornment: where does the line between tasteful decoration and gaudy sexuality lie? The qualitative differences between materials like porcelain and MDF are eradicated as Cherubini gives equal attention to both the low and high-brow. One appreciates the challenge the artist must face when indulging a genuine love of beauty while still remaining aware of the dangerous potential of that same love to become decadent and ultimately destructive. The work is dense with thoughtful contradiction and inherent artistic dilemmas.
The vessel form used by Cherubini is the same as was used by ancient Greek and Roman ceramists. The hand-building processes employed are also the same as those used by her ancient predecessors. Thus, in form and process Cherubini’s work is almost traditional; Where she makes her departure is in the preceding treatment and context in which these pieces then find themselves enduring.
If the artist’s first point of departure is in ancient Greece, then her second stop on the line is with the post-minimalists, and her third the Baroque. In beautiful contest with the medium’s traditional purposes, Cherubini punches holes in the forms- negating their functional potential. She builds the surfaces with gestural and unnecessary marks. Cast and cut-off pieces are added to the skin of the forms like scraps being carelessly added to a growing waste pile. The artist’s hand is seen on
every inch of this work. Continuing in the vein of artists like Eva Hesse, Cherubini explores the erotic, sensual nature of materiality, the tradition of presenting (or not) three-dimensional works on pedestals, and the presence of the body- seen either as being in causal relation to the work or as a representation that is suggested by the work.
These G-Pots, as referred to by the artist, are adorned with gold chain, tufts of fur, and layers of succulent glazes and enamel. The sense of opulence and luxury that this treatment provides the work acts in direct opposition of its origins in pure functionality. Baroque notions of exuberance lend elements of dark humor, social critique, and sensuality to the work. Fine art can always be threatened by claims of its non-essentiality. To the most practical among us, the fine arts may seem frivolous, providing no quantifiable or immediate benefit to the population at large. And yet the practice of creating objects of beauty has endured. Cherubini’s work questions the necessity of material expression, the complexity of comprehending a functionless yet desirable form, and the authority tradition is most always afforded. Check it out. It’s delicious.