The work of ceramic sculptor Cristina Córdova has always been concerned with the human form: the figure and the face, gesture and expression. Her upcoming show at the Penland Gallery—her first solo exhibition in the U.S. since 2011—will present two- and three-dimensional images of her family members along with elements that evoke her native Puerto Rico. Titled Cerca y Lejos, the exhibition runs from September 20 through November 20 with an opening reception on Saturday, October 1, from 4:30 to 6:30 PM.
At the center of the exhibition are two life-size, standing ceramic figures: one depicts her husband and the other depicts one of their daughters. The figures stand in front of wall-sized photographs of Puerto Rico that were taken from Internet sources and are presented as photo mosaics. Along with these dioramas are five large portraits of members of Córdova’s family. Drawn on paper using clay slip and other materials, the oversized faces look directly and unflinchingly at the viewer. The show’s title means “near and far” and refers to the proximity of the artist’s family and the distance of her homeland.
In talking about this work, Córdova notes that for her it represents a turn toward naturalism. “My work has been described in the past as having to do with surrealism and religious iconography. In this more overtly personal work, I am using images of real places and modeling real individuals.” Penland Gallery director Kathryn Gremley says of the show, “For an artist whose work is both sensory and confrontational, the opportunity to work with an entire exhibition space is ideal: she can move fluidly from wall to floor, she can study the light and create works accordingly, she can force perspective, and creative narrative groupings without regard to conventional gallery norms.”
Taken as a whole, the exhibition creates a form of silent theater that illuminates one artist’s exploration of her personal and cultural identity. Córdova, who grew up in Puerto Rico and now lives and works near Penland School of Crafts in Mitchell County, North Carolina, has an MFA in ceramics from Alfred University in New York. She has received a North Carolina Arts Council fellowship, a Virginia A. Groot Foundation grant, and the prestigious United States Artists fellowship. Her work is in the collections of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in DC, the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Puerto Rico and was recently featured on the cover of Ceramics Monthly magazine. She was a Penland resident artist from 2002-2005 and has taught at the school several times.
This exhibition is an opportunity to visit the recently renovated and expanded Penland Gallery, which is also featuring functional pieces by woodworker Christina Boy in the Focus Gallery and site-specific installations by Christina Shmigel and Laurencia Strauss. Also on view are large, outdoor sculptures by Hoss Haley and Bill Brown, Jr. The gallery sales area represents hundreds of artists who are affiliated with the school. And the Visitors Center Gallery has an ongoing display of objects that represent Penland’s history.
The Penland Gallery and Visitors Center is located on Conley Ridge Road, just off of Penland Road in Mitchell County (near the town of Spruce Pine). It is the first building on your right as you enter the Penland campus. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 AM-5:00 PM and Sunday, Noon-5:00 PM; closed on Mondays.
For more information call 828-765-6211 or visit penland.org/gallery.