Solid Objects — Debra Broz, Karolina Maszkiewicz, Donna Mccullough, Cheryl Riley
Curated by Patricia Ortega-Miranda
In 1918 British writer Virginia Woolf wrote Solid Objects, a story about a man who abandons his political career to go on a search for objects. At the center of Woolf’s feminist critique of modern European society is a man’s obsessions and ambitions. The material quality of iron, glass, and the trinket “china” become allegories of industrial progress and colonial economies. Yet, these materials open up to sensorial, imaginative, and poetic experiences that extend far beyond the rational and orderly projections of the man’s collecting impulse. The critique around modernity’s thingly objects has been shaped by the work of women fighting against racial discrimination and for gender equality. From Sojourner Truth appropriating and reclaiming ownership over her body and the product of her labor to Simone de Beauvoir’s articulation of sexual objectification, women’s different approaches to objects have engaged universal questions about the nature of power, our relation to the natural world, and our shared sense of humanity.
This online exhibition presents the work of four artists whose unique artistic languages radically alter the ways in which we relate to objects. These works prompt a diverse range of emotional and aesthetic responses and invite a reflection about our personal and collective experiences. Debra’s Reconstructions combine and modify decorative ceramic figurines found at thrift stores to create new narratives that ponder on the complexity of our human psychology. The hybrid, as a phenomenon connected to processes of mutation and morphing, is also present in Karolina’s Beach Stone series. By linking organic materials and man-made objects, her sculptural abstract compositions weave together memories of different times and places. Memory objects fill the cabinet of wonders in Cheryl’s piece Transcendence Preserved. Covered with clear plastic, these relics juxtapose intimacy and distance, returning each object its aura through her family’s stories of struggle and resilience. The contrasting qualities of materials and textures in Donna’s piece Deanna reconfigures the delicate archetypical feminine garment as a protective, fragile, and wounded medieval armor. -Patricia Ortega-Miranda, Curator
Donna is best known for her dresses which are crafted of steel and various metals, nearly all of which are re-purposed. “I like the duplicitous nature of steel, which can be manipulated to appear delicate and soft while maintaining its strength and rigidity — an expression in contrasts and compliments” she said. Her inspiration arose from contemplating the dichotomy between the perception of women as fragile, delicate creatures, and the reality that most women are defined by resiliency and steely resolve. She employs a juxtaposition of extremes such as lightness and gravity, suppleness and intransigence, to convey feminine sensibilities. Her work has been exhibited at the Hickory Museum of Art in North Carolina, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in D.C., the Museum of the Americas in D.C., the Suffolk Museum in Virginia, the Virginia Quilt Museum and internationally at MACAY — Merida’s Contemporary Art Museum. Her work was exhibited at the UNESCO Ambassadorial residence in Paris and the ambassadorial residence in Brussels through the Art in Embassies program. She represented the U.S. in an exhibit sponsored by Saudi Arabia at their UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Her work is collected throughout the U.S. and internationally. She works in her studio in Westminster, Maryland.
Donna McCullough, Deanna, 2019/2021, Steel and aluminum screening, 55”h x 23”w x 13”d. Photo and audio by Donna M. McCullough
Video and audio courtesy of Donna M. McCullough
“One of the driving forces behind my work is to try and create a sense of movement within my compositions, to transfix the viewer by creating a space for contemplation and reflection. I use a variety of materials that link what is man-made and what grows in the natural environment, such as stone and dry plant pods. I want to allow these materials to mimic our presence in nature through their composition and movement.” Karolina attended FIDM for Fashion Design, and has exhibited her work most recently with G/ART/EN in Como, Italy, and Ochi Projects, Los Angeles. Her work has been published in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times.
Karolina Maszkiewicz, Bluff Cove Beach, 2020, Stone, wood, bonding material, paint, 17 x 11 x 6 inches. Photo and audio by Karolina Maszkiewicz
Video and audio courtesy of Karolina Maszkiewicz
Debra Broz collects and deconstructs secondhand ceramic kitsch figurines, then combines them into reimagined versions of their former selves. She searches thrift stores and online resale sites for things that were once valued, but have since become unloved. Using techniques of ceramics restoration, she effaces history by creating seamless reconstructions that are part humor, part mad science, and part tender sentimentality for the midwestern culture in which she was raised. Broz currently lives in Los Angeles where, in addition to her art practice, she runs a ceramics restoration business. Broz exhibits with Track 16 Gallery in Los Angeles, and has had exhibits at the American Museum of Ceramic Art, Austin Museum of Art, and Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Her work has been featured in print in Ceramics Monthly, American Craft, and Frankie magazines; and in two international surveys of contemporary ceramics.
Debra Broz, Pig Child II, 3.5 x 5.5 x 3.5, secondhand ceramic figurines and mixed media, 2018
Debra Broz, Crab Family, 8 x 4 x 6″, secondhand ceramic and plastic figurines and mixed media, 2020
Debra Broz, Double Deer, 10 x 8 x 3″, secondhand ceramic figurines and mixed media, 2017
Video and audio courtesy of Debra Broz
Cheryl R. Riley is an artist, furniture designer and art advisor who’s focus is artists of the Black African Diaspora. She has created wall art, installations, site-specific public artworks, custom and licenced lighting and furniture designs since 1986. Cheryl is a member of BADG (The Black Artists and Designers Guild) founded by artist/designer, Malene Barnett. She is designing a Sanctuary (Meditation/Grief/Worship) space that will feature the art of Renee Cox for Black Artists + Designers Guilds (“BADG”) Virtual Concept House, which launches October 2020. “My art explores similarities between seemingly disparate cultures viewed through the lens of gender, history, rituals, implements and symbols. Two sculpture projects have occupied me for the last three years that address societal structures, nourishment, representation, aspiration and transcendence.”
She has exhibited in over 60 group and solo shows throughout the U.S. Her public art projects are installed in New York City, San Francisco, Sacramento and Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport. Furniture designs are in private collections, as well as museums, including two Smithsonian’s and SFMoMA and I am a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist grant recipient.
“Transcendence Preserved” explores our shared experiences by exploring concepts of acquisition, transcending one’s station and preserving attainment with the acts of embellishment and preservation filtered through my family history. The signifiers of attainment and the myriad manifestations of dreams realized are invoked by the memories of living rooms containing furniture and even the lamp shades and rugs covered and encased in protective vinyl coverings. These rooms are created as ‘stage sets’ to be viewed and admired but not inhabited. They are a source of pride in the attainment of specific aspirational ideals of beauty, class and quality. They must be preserved from dirt and the wear and tear of human contact in order for visitors and family member to understand that the Owners have accomplished domestic supremacy, as exemplified in Kerry James Marshall’s “Mementos” paintings. With Transcendence Preserved, quotidian objects, loaded with nostalgic meanings provoke visceral emotions, specific, while universal recollections in the Viewer. The addition of gold wherever the human hand would touch them invests the mundane with the aura of ‘sacred objects’.
Video and audio courtesy of Cheryl R. Riley
Jay Alleghetti, Video Editor
ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena. Their work often links queer identities to plant life through visual media and interactive installations. Past exhibitions have included a transgender resources guide and queer clothing swap to help galleries better serve local LGBTQ+ communities. Most recently, Julia has been using collage to juxtapose garbage with formal painting techniques and YouTube videos. When they aren’t collaging trash, Julia works as a curator and podcast host.
This project was organized by Patricia Ortega-Miranda, original video’s by the artists © Debra Broz, © Karolina Maszkiewicz, © Donna Mccullough, © Cheryl Riley.
Edited by Julia Allighetti with support from Patricia Ortega-Miranda and Kim Schoenstadt.
This project is supported in part by The University of Maryland Art Gallery.