Through November, the Northern Clay Center (NCC) will feature artist-curator Lily Fein’s The Skin of the Pot: Works by Lily Fein. The collection of pottery is part of NCC’s Emerging Curator Initiative, which allows artists to curate their own works, and additionally explores “exhibition architecture” and the relationship between artist and gallery.
The Skin of the Pot includes five porcelain pieces, each exploring Fein’s growth as an artist during the COVID-19 pandemic. The vessels are intentionally formed to emulate living bodies, eclectically shaped to spotlight ideas of touch and connection. Her piece, “Wrapped Around,” particularly echoes a human form and each of the pots show purposeful signs of touch across their surfaces. Using patchwork, patterns, and light muted colors, Fein creates and curates a very body-centered clay collection of thought-provoking pottery that probes at our mid-pandemic sensibilities.
Fein’s art is not limited to claywork. She has experience in drawing and beadwork, though she channels much of her modern voice into her claywork. Fein tells the NCC that she enjoys clay as a medium to “express myself and to fulfill my desire to be absorbed by what I am creating.”
Outside of The Skin of the Pot, Fein has explored movement and utilitarianism through her pottery, as well as themes of family. Fein cites her grandfather, a Polish Holocaust survivor, as a source of creative inspiration. Fein’s grandfather carved visa stamps out of the rubber soles of shoes in order to smuggle fleeing Jews to safer countries during the rise of Nazi occupation, and the artist considers her carving of clay to be an extension of this legacy. Because her grandfather never got to fully realize his own talent in drawing, Fein holds deep appreciation for her position as an artist. Fein explains, “his legacy makes me cherish my ability and freedom in making art.”
Through The Skin of the Pot, Fein challenges the golem-esque tropes associated with Jewish claywork, and enters into the Jewish artistic space which addresses crisis. Jewish creatives, particularly Holocaust survivors and their offspring, are no stranger to traumatically-inspired art. The coronavirus pandemic adds another dimension to this genre.
The Skin of the Pot: Works by Lily Fein can be viewed in the Galusha Gallery at the Northern Clay Center, 7 days a week from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The pieces will be viewable through Nov. 5, and a virtual tour of the gallery can be viewed on the NCC website.