Cary Esser, untitled (Pb13), earthenware and glaze, 16" x 12" x 1.5", 2017
Cary Esser, untitled (Pb17), earthenware and glaze, 16" x 12" x 1.5", 2017
Cary Esser, untitled (Pw5), earthenware and glaze, 16.5" x 11.6" x 1.9", 2018
Cary Esser, Parfleche (r3), unglazed red earthenware, 16" x 11.9" x 1.4", 2017 (sold)
Cary Esser, Parfleche (w3), earthenware and glaze, 16.9" x 11.9" x 2.1", 2017
Cary Esser, Parfleche (metallic2), earthenware and glaze, 16" x 12" x 2", 2018
solid-cast earthenware with slip
7 1/2h x 5 1/2w x 1d in
solid-cast earthenware with slip
7.50h x 5.38w x 1d in
Cary Esser "Parfleche", solid-cast earthenware with slip, 7.5" x 5.37" x 1.25", 2017 (sold)
An ongoing connection between organic and geometric structures in my work has played a role in the creation and evolution of each new series. My early sensibilities as an artist were influenced by our built environments, and in particular by tiles and ornament. My reflections on architectural form and surface have been a touchstone, strongly influencing my thinking about the exterior and the interior as having interlaced significance. These over-arching ideas are perhaps most fully expressed in my recent wall-relief sculptures. The works are cast with liquid clay in plaster molds, configured to deliberately encourage what at first might be regarded as technical flaws. The random markings and fissures left by the forming process are meant to contrast with the intentionally placed grids and frames. With each piece, the application of monochrome colors, along with various textures, emulate diverse industrial and natural substances, such as metal, salt, coral, oil, confounding the sense of their materiality.
The sculptures provoke in me a need to consider the mystery of their interior, that shallow, folded, compressed space held between two planes or skins. I want the sculptures to allude to an internal state that is like a shield - the human need and impulse to protect, both physically and emotionally. Yet, that shield inevitably yields, frays, and discloses what is beneath and within. My deeper thematic interest is in the end of architecture, the end of the body, its inevitable succumbing to gravity, to decomposition, its return to the earth, and with that, the prospect of growth and renewal.
From Casting Shadows, H & R Block Artspace, 2017 (slightly edited)
A trip to the Cappadocia region of Turkey in 2013 had a significant impact on my work in ceramics. For many years I have pored over images of the caves that, for millennia, have been carved into the soft volcanic formations of the Cappadocian landscape.
These caves have organic, white, honeycomb-like interiors punctuated by archways, columns, and windows. Light from openings in the walls filters in and shifts around the softened shapes of the interiors, creating changing envelopes of space. The wall-reliefs are influenced by my experience of the caves and also by Native American bison-hide carrying cases called parfleches. These are envelopes, too, in a literal sense: rectangles made of folded hide, painted with abstract designs, and used to store and transport provisions. I have never had the chance to untie and open a parfleche, I only know them from their exteriors, yet the slim, creased interior space implied by these wrapped cases captivate me in much the same way as do the Cappadocian caves.
My wall-reliefs depart from my usual passion for highly glazed surfaces. They are solid-cast with slip (liquid clay) in flexible molds that are configured to encourage what might be considered technical flaws. In these pieces, the markings and fissures left by their forming process contrast with grid lines that recede into the mass of the objects, aiming for a tension between order and entropy. They provoke me to consider the mysterious interior of a form.
Architecture usually begins with a building up from the earth. My interest now is equally in the end or memory of architecture, its inevitable succumbing to gravity and decomposition, and its return to the earth.
Check out this great interview with Cary in 2016 in Flatland KC magazine.
And this review of Cary's practice leading to her current work by Glen Brown.
MFA, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, 1984
BFA, Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI), 1978
A Warm Reset, Joseph Nease Gallery, Duluth, MN, 2021.
Beneath, Within, Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, 2019.
Second Surface, Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, 2018.
Zanesville Prize, Seilers’ Studio and Gallery, Zanesville, Ohio, 2017.
Casting Shadows: 2017 KCAI Biennial, H & R Block Artspace, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO, 2017.
The Once and Future: New Now, Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, 2016.
Chromaphilia, KCAI Crossroads Gallery: Center For Contemporary Practice, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO, 2016.
50 Women, American Jazz Museum, Kansas City, MO, 2016.
Archie Bray Foundation Resident and Visiting Artists, Belger Crane Yard Gallery, Kansas City, MO, 2016.
Every Semester: Collecting KCAI Ceramics 1995 – 2015, Belger Arts Center, Kansas City, MO, 2016.
Recent American Ceramics from the Dr. Harold F. Daum Collection, Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia, MO, 2016.
Summer Invitational, Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, 2016.
Dimension and the Space In Between, Belger Arts Center, Kansas City, MO, 2016.
In Pursuit, H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City, MO, 2015.
Summer Workshop Artists Exhibition, Belger Crane Yard, Kansas City, MO, 2015.
The Center is a Moving Target, Kemper at the Crossroads, Kansas City, MO, 2014.
Analagons, Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia, MO, 2014.
20th Anniversary Clay on the Wall Invitational Exhibition, curated by Glen Brown, Landmark Arts, Texas Tech University School of Art, Lubbock, TX, 2013.
Narrow Margins, H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City, MO, 2011.
Bray Collaboration, Holter Museum of Art, Helena, MT, 2011.
Kansas City Clay, Red Star Studios, NCECA Expo Gallery, Tampa, FL, 2011.
Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, (SOLO), Kansas City, MO, 2010.
Creating and Collecting: Kansas City and Contemporary Sculpture, Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO, 2010.
(Re)Form, H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO, 2010.
Six McKnight Artists, Northern Clay Center, Minneapolis, MN (catalog), 2010.
25th Anniversary Summer Exhibition, Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, 2010.
Connecting with Contemporary Sculpture, Museum of Art and Archaeology, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, 2010.
Evermore: Pattern & Process, Epsten Gallery, Overland Park, KS (catalog), 2009.
KCAI: Then and Now, Red Star Studios, Kansas City, MO, 2009.
Craft in America Exhibition and Catalog, venues: Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AK; Museum of Contemporary Craft, Portland, OR; Mingei International Museum, San Diego, CA; Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, Houston, TX; Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, MI; National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, OK; Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA, 2007-2009.
Kansas City Flat Files, KCAI H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City, MO, 2008.
It’s Only Natural, KCAI H&R Block Artspace, Kansas City, MO, 2007.
Kansas City Collection IV
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art
Daum Museum of Contemporary Art
Tweed Museum of Art
el dorado architects
North Carolina Arts Council Artworks for State Building
First National Bank and Trust Company
City of Sanford, North Carolina
Montgomery County, Maryland, Art-in-Public-Architecture
Archie Bray Foundation
John Michael Kohler Art Center
Belger Crane Yard Studios, Kansas City, MO, 2014 to present
Northern Clay Center, McKnight Residency, Minneapolis, MN, 2010.
International Ceramics Studio, Kecskemet, Hungary, 2003.
Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts, Newcastle, ME, 1999.
Awards and Honors
Visiting Artist, Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, MT, 2015.
Distinguished Achievement Award, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO, 2013.
Faculty Development Grants, 13 grants awarded between 1996 and 2015, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO, 1996-2015.
McKnight Foundation Ceramic Artist Residency, 2009.
Lighton International Artists Exchange Program, Kansas City, MO, 2003.