Jiayi Gu

Date of Award


Document Type

MA Project - Restricted Access (SIA Only)

Project Type

MA Project - Curatorial Proposal

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Morgan Falconer

Second Advisor

Leo Krakowsky


Focusing squarely on ceramics, this exhibition will take the form of a group show featuring five contemporary artists exploring the theme of fragmented figuration. Participating artists include Natalia Arbelaez, Rachelle Dang, Elizabeth Jaeger, Elisa Soliven and Jessica Stoller. Thanks to the evolving discourse surrounding craft and art, ceramics, once solely associated with craft, have undergone a transformative journey, now gaining prevalence in the contemporary art scene. This exhibition thus aims to challenge traditional notions of ceramics by spotlighting its contemporary manifestation as an autonomous art form, rich in concept, expression, and existence. The title of the show, Chameleon: Figuration in Ceramics encapsulates two key elements: “Chameleon” is the metaphor for ceramics, the multifaceted medium capable of assuming myriad forms, while also alluding to the diverse expressions the artists mold from clay. “Figuration,” particularly fragmented figures, is the common thread among the artists' works, calling attention to ceramics' unique corporeal and tactile qualities. Drawing inspiration from historical, cultural, and personal narratives, the featured artists exemplify the versatility and expressive potential of clay as a medium for storytelling, reclaiming colonial histories, exploring personal narratives and defying preconceptions towards the female body. Colombian-American artist Natalia Arbelaez draws upon traditional Latin American and Amerindian techniques and imagery to examine historical influences on cultural identities, molding together lived experiences with indigenous legacies to reflect her mixed identity. Rachelle Dang, informed by the environmental legacies of 2 colonialism and her upbringing in Hawaii, intertwines personal experiences with ecological, ancestral, and colonial narratives, shedding light on the untold history and invisible labor through relic-like works. Elizabeth Jaeger infuses emotions and experiences into handcrafted renditions of everyday objects and figurative sculptures that evoke both familiarity and unease, defy easy categorization and celebrate the intricate ambiguity of our collective reality, inviting viewers to reconsider their relationship with physical presence, surroundings, and consciousness. Elisa Soliven builds ceramic sculptures reminiscent of archaeological artifacts and transforms familiar objects into vessels for personal mythologies and social commentaries through gestural mark-making, layering and embedding. Last but not least, Jessica Stoller employs clay and the grotesque as mediums to interrogate societal constructs of femininity. She synthesizes cultural, historical, and corporeal perspectives on the female body to expand the feminist visual lexicon and create room for subversion, defiance, and whimsy. Attesting to the enduring relevance and boundless possibilities of ceramics as an evolving art form that continues to inspire, this exhibition probes the significance of figuration in ceramics, inviting viewers to contemplate the complexities of human existence through the medium of clay and to reassess their perceptions of history, body, gender, and identity. The show will be on view for three weeks in June 2024 at the LES Gallery in New York City. The choice of this 600-square-feet gallery space was carefully considered for its bright, well-lit ambiance, ideal for showcasing ceramics that require ample light for close examination. Location-wise, the neighborhood has Chinese restaurants, salons, and utility stores, which aligns with ceramics’ dual nature as both 3 functional and decorative. Additionally, the presence of other contemporary galleries in the area offers the potential to attract foot traffic to the exhibition.