Julie Moon’s body of work could be called Ceramics on Steroids or alternatively, Ceramics Gone Wild. The combination of globular, Seuss-appropriate sculptures and delicately cast flowers, hands, and skulls makes for a collection both perplexing and surprising. Though one may be left wondering what exactly it is that one is looking at, perhaps the trick with Moon’s work is not to define it “exactly” by assigning meaning or symbolism; the fact is, the pieces just exist for themselves in a world wholly their own. They are presentations rather than representations, and though this may be alienating for some viewers, the trick is in the appreciation of what it is, rather than what it means.
In her Pretty Pleas series, Moon’s sculptures seem to bubble up from wherever they’re planted in gelatinous, oozing forms frozen in ceramic states. The combination of the stationary, hardened enamel and the swollen, distended blob, evokes feelings of stillness and movement simultaneously. The sculptures emit an aura of fragility and softness with flourishes of tiny flowers or gauzy, frilly trimmings and yet are sedentary, bulbous masses that demand space. The oddity and beauty of the sculptures’ rounded-off edges, gilded or lacey bases and drippy emanations are reminiscent of the whimsical as well as the sophisticated with pieces that would fit in next to a Ming Vase in a millionaire’s flat as comfortably as they would a playground or a traveling carnival’s Freak Show.
Figure and Floral presents pieces that are more accessible since utilize familiar shapes of skulls, hands in ASL “I Love Yous,” birds, and human-like figures in standing poses. Though the art world is inundated with these types of standard forms, Moon puts on fresh touches that repurpose tired images as new, retextured ideas. Stodgy, tired floral patterns that would have in the past decorated monochromatic place settings come alive in vibrant color and positioned in unexpected places like the hands of a figure or across the body of a humanoid. Nesting dolls, a tchotchke that often epitomizes the token, mass-produced souvenir, are rendered faceless and covered over in bright splotches and repeating patterns that lack uniformity.
Appropriately named, Julie Moon digs into alien terrain as she sends ceramics on an exploratory intergalactic mission, leaving behind the commonplace and comfortable for exciting, confusing, and dynamic reimaginings of porcelain and their trappings. Whatever your take on Moon’s work, one thing is for certain: This is not your grandmother’s china.
© W. Laurie Ewer