The ArtsVisual Arts: Rachel Lloyd: Well Endowed
Rachel Lloyd: Well Endowed
Through May 31 at
Stardust Video & Coffee
1842 E. Winter Park Road
If Rachel Lloyd’s ceramic bowls, nests and spoons appear particularly appealing at Stardust Video & Coffee, that should come as no surprise. “I don’t mind thinking of myself as a potter,” the Orlando artist says, taking a break from installing her work at the coffeehouse.
“I guess I have a kind of romantic notion – I want people to use my work, but also it is art. That’s why I mounted the spoons on board: people can hang them on the wall and take them down to use,” says Lloyd, 33. “But then they can hang them back on the board, and they are displayed, as art.”
Not only that, at Stardust, the hand-built stoneware pieces blend right in. Suspended from rough concrete walls, their humble earthy material echoes the space, complete with tables, chairs and a shimmery-fringe-lined stage at one end.
But there’s nothing rough about Lloyd’s work: the bowls, spoons and nests, shaped from dozens of tiny, articulated clay tubes that resemble bones, are finely balanced structures with pale, shimmering glazed surfaces. They evolved out of work begun about four years ago when the University of Central Florida graduate rolled her first “bones” on a roughened paddle and they became her works’ central elements.
“They’ve grown larger and I’ve added color to them,” Lloyd says. “The earliest were kind of flat – I was coiling them. But I roll them out and join them now. They’ve gone from being solid bowls, wider and shallower, to open forms that I think of as nests.”
Those bowl forms, mounted in a row on gray concrete at Stardust, are both elegant and quirky, personal yet also ironic. Most are black, with rims and handles of gray “bones.” But at each end in the installation are Lloyd’s most recent versions – one glazed a dark blue, the other a hot lipstick red. A similar shift into a brighter, lighter format is evident in her spoon sets that double as both art and salad servers as well as individual ladles. The thick, clear, crackled turquoise surface of one “bone”-handled set catches the artist’s eye, and she smiles.
“I love those glazes – I love seeing the way they come out of the kiln,” says Lloyd, a Florida native who found clay as a student at Barron Collier High School in Naples and chose UCF for its ceramics department. From the start, pottery offered a perfect way to make a statement. She says, “I believe clay can be more expressive, sexual, beautiful and vulgar than any other medium.” When she “fell in love with making art” in high school, it was in “big dirty overalls, using bare wet hands and sneaking cigarettes at the clay plugger.”
Since completing her bachelor’s of fine arts, Lloyd became a founding member of Mud Flap Girls – a “group of women artists dedicated to kicking each others’ butts back into the studio – and to having fun,” she says. And she began to reach toward her current direction, fusing sculpture and pottery, utility and what used to be called the “fine arts,” gradually refining an approach that’s anything but refined. “A raw surface with a finished edge excites me,” she writes in her artist’s statement. “If a piece doesn’t have movement or gesture, I manipulate it until it does.”
The statement continues, “Smack, press, tear, roll, join, exaggerate. These techniques for moving clay present ideas of bone and raw, melting surfaces.” That’s obvious in the Stardust show, where her works hold their own against coarse walls, harsh lighting: bowls and ladles, nests and spoons are explorations of modernism, statements about the very act of making art. To the artist, they are formal studies, sculpture that retains the artist’s touch, however ferocious or tender.
“When I first started working with the ‘bones’ – I call them ‘logs’ – they looked a lot different,” Lloyd says. “Once I make the logs, I may rework them. Sometimes, I fold them over, join them at the centers and re-roll them. Other people may say they’re bones, but to me they’re just shapes, forms. They’re growing and changing, all the time – the early nests were flatter and dark; these are light, and color is coming.”