Porcelain Beauties Telling Sad Tales

By Eric Olson

February 5, 2013 Updated Feb 5, 2013 at 1:13 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana-We humans are obsessed with ourselves so it’s no surprise that artwork representing the human form is often the most compelling. And compelling describes the world created by this exhibition of figurative ceramics by Southern artists Lisa Clague, Nancy Kubale and Diana Farfan at the University of St. Francis’ Weatherhead Gallery. All three are nationally recognized artists though Lisa Clague is probably best known, her beautifully rendered hybrid creatures appearing like figures in a disturbing dream.

“Her works are very sublime in nature and incorporate a lot of unconscious symbolism,” says gallery director Justin Johnson. “If you’re familiar with the work of Salvador Dali and other surrealists her work kind of falls in that genre.”

Diana Farfan was born in Columbia, a country surrounded by despots and drug lords. This installation is called the Toy Republic…there are the rulers, kings, generals and clergy…beneath them are the bureaucrats, armless figures representing their impotence. And beneath all of them are the people, powerless and put upon. Farfan’s imaginary country, she says, raises questions about justice, injustice and virtues. Farfan’s other works recall memories of impoverished children in her homeland picking through trash for broken and discarded toys to play with…figures beautiful to look at and tragic to contemplate.

“And that’s what makes these artists so impressive,” says Johnson, “is that they’re able to catch that emotion in a static object and I think that says a lot to their craft and their importance as artists.”

The world this exhibition creates is sad and funny…beautiful and hideous all at the same time. Upsetting, too, provoking the viewer in precisely the way fine art is supposed to. This is Eric Olson reporting.

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