King of Pain
Kathy King's ceramic work is exhausting. For the last ten years she has been tirelessly probing at every raw nerve that relationships and self-analysis expose. Kathy (or at least her alter-ego) stars in all of the work, which is all functional in some way or another, which makes her some long-lost love child of R. Crumb and Bernard Leach. Functional ceramic vessels with illustrated narratives have a rich history dating back to the Greeks and beyond. A functional pot provides a 3-dimensional canvas that can be made into a narrative, like a comic strip. Kathy takes this connection and runs with it, adding in extra layers of having the vessels comment upon their function and the role of the user. Her first full-blown masterpiece was her graduate thesis show at the University of Florida in Gainesville in 1997.
Many ceramic geeks have seen this slice of genius in books and magazines. The show consisted of a bed, which was completely covered in illustrated tiles commenting on birth control options from a woman's perspective. The headboard contained four vessels to contain the birth control options, including a condom jar, a jar for birth control pills (showing a woman on all fours, hunting for an impossible-to-find-when-dropped pill), and a hilarious butter dish to contain a diaphragm. The diaphragm container is illustrated with a picture of Kathy rowing in a diaphragm, navigating a sea of sperm. The headboard shows a nude couple rushing toward each other, while the footboard shows Kathy-as-devil girl, wishing the occupant of the bed good luck. The exhibition also had a woman's night stand, which contained a bunch of containers for real and fanciful cosmetics and beauty aid, each elaborately illustrated with narratives related to the products, including pimple cream and breast enlargement elixir.
Atlantans, rejoice! Kathy is part of a 4-person show (with Janis Mars Wunderlich, Jenny Mendes, and Krista Grecco) at the Signature Gallery called "Intimate Rituals of Daily Life". Kathy's new work delves deeper into gender and relationship issues. Her new work features plenty of worms, which seem to stand in for the little devils that sit on a cartoon character's shoulder, little voices of self-doubt. Characters put on masks during first dates, share their baggage, and gender confusion. There are also symbolic vessels, such as these "birdhouses", which serve as reliquaries for tiny hearts and homes.
Kathy is one of those rare artists (even rarer in the craft world) who ruthlessly air their dirty laundry in their own work. Her pots take on a life of their own, offering up plenty of food for thought when they are used (and her work always begs to be used). Each of her works is like a miniature stage set in which the vessels serve as the actor and the end user winds up being the director. The next time you reach for your salt and pepper shakers, imagine serving up your salt and pepper with a theatrical pair of Kathy King salt shakers, complete with psychodrama. Wouldn't it be nice?
LINK to Signature show