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Cindy Kolodziejski
New Work
May 1-June 1, 1999
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Ceramic artist Cindy Kolodziejski paints meticulous scenes on her glazed earthenware vases, teapots and tureens. Often using the handles of these old-fashioned domestic vessels as dividers, she presents paired images with surprising narrative contrasts. On one side of Champagne Bucket (1999), for example, Kolodziejski depicts from above a man climbing a ladder, as if scaling the fluted vessel. On the other side, a blowsy woman in peasant garb leans back on a swing, revealing a full view of her petticoats. On a kind of “champagne high,” these two figures suggest a comic sexual roundelay.

Kolodziejski’s vessels toy with the exaggerated details of Belle Époque decoration. Garish handles, knobs and bases cast from Victorian lamps and furniture decorate her works, parodying the stultifying ornateness that marked the era. In the cavity of a fancy gravy boat, Kolodziejski paints perhaps the naughtiest image in 19th-century painting, Courbet’s Origin of the World. Aptly enough, this crotch-shot depiction of a female nude is meant to be drowned in butter-enriched fatty sauce.

Kolodziejski pursues the exaggerated formal and thematic flourishes of her Victoriana with a vengeance, tapping into its psychosexual core. Pearl Necklace (1999), a slender pitcher with an extremely pinched waist, features on one side the depiction of a buxom woman’s torso draped with a long set of pearls; on the other side is the image of a long cucumber being peeled to conform to a narrow hourglass shape. With its showgirl proportions, the seemingly corseted, hyper-female shape of the vessel complements in a perversely satisfying way the suggestively phallic scene of cucumber-peeling. The pearl clutching woman seems to have found an outlet for her frustrations.

To and Fro (1998) presents a gentler but similarly pointed vignette. On one side of a pear-shaped teapot with a high pedestal base is painted the image of a similarly pear-shaped older man in a swing who peers down from the apex of his trajectory. On the other side is the same suited figure, seemingly at the opposite end of his arc. The low-angle point of view perches the teapot man high above us, like a kind of happy CEO swinging along obliviously.

--Michael Duncan, Art in America, February, 2000.