The work of ceramic sculptor Cristina Córdova has always been concerned with the human form: the figure and the face, gesture and expression. Her show at the Penland Gallery—her first solo exhibition in the U.S. since 2011—presents 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 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 create 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.