Figuration in clay after 2000

Eastern US


Many of the ceramicists shown here are associated in one way or another with the Clay Studio, Philadelphia. 


The Clay Studio was founded in 1974 by five Philadelphia potters who needed space to make their work. 


Over the more than 40 years of its existence, the Clay Studio has much expanded.


It moved into its own wholly-owned location in 2021.


It offers workspace for potters on its premises; and classes; and residencies.  It works throughout the city using mobile resources taken to community organizations, after-school programs, homes for the aged; recreation centers. 

It has grown and nourished a number of artists now working all over the country.

And it mounts exhibitions every year and a biennial every two years.


Its current exhibition deals with figuration.









I am no one, 2006, cut, hollowed and reassembled stoneware with clay slip.

Beth Cavaner, American born 1972.  Smithsonian Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC







Chillin’, clay, wall paint, acrylic paint.

  Susan Strassberg on exhibit at the Clay Studio, Philadelphia in 2015








Culled Lamb, 2016, porcelain, plastic, wood, paint. 

Linda Cordell, American, no DOB; on display at the Philadelphia Arts Alliance in 2016





Unknown name, 2016; porcelain, paint, plastic.

Linda Cordell, no DOB; on display at the Philadelphia Arts Alliance in 2016







Tipsy maybe?  Unwise Baby, earthenware, 2017. 

Hannah Pierce, American, no DOB.  2018 Juried Show at the Clay Studio, Philadelphia






#8, Village Series, ceramic, 2019

Simone Leigh, American born 1967.  Whitney Biennial 2019, NY







Simone Leigh‘s Face Jugs  and the creation below made by Woody De Othello

are a continuation of a tradition of face cups and jugs made, mostly anonymously, by African Americans slaves and newly freed people in the mid-19th century in the Carolinas (southern US).



Simone Leigh, 107 (Face Jug Series) 2019; salt-fired stoneware.

Simone Leigh, American born 1967.  Photo by Farzad Owrang,  In private collection





Face Jug by an unrecorded potter, 1850-1880; alkaline glazed stoneware with kaolin.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY







108 (Face Jug Series), 2019, salt fired porcelain. 

Simone Leigh, American born 1967.  Loaned by the artist and her gallery to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022






Face pitcher and face cup; unrecorded potters; alkaline glazed stoneware with kaolin.

Private collection loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022





Applying Pressure, 2021, ceramic and glaze. 

Woody de Othello, American born 1991.  Loaned by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY in 2022







Memoria Ancestral, 2022, earthenware. 

George Rodriguez, no DOB.  On exhibit at the Clay Studio, Philadelphia in 2023


The protective symbols are of the Mesoamerican pantheon of the  Aztec, Maya and Olmec civilizations.

The pottery is in the Olmec tradition. There is clay in the vessel the figure holds.





The artist is responding to this verse of Lucille Clifton.

born in Babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did I see to be myself?

Lucille Clifton

What I am and am not; glazed paper clay, textile, dirt; 2022.

Victoria Walton, no DOB and no nationality given. On exhibit at the Clay Studio, Philadelphia in 2023





How Have You Been/Introspection?, 2022, stoneware, underglaze, glaze, gold luster.

Kyungmin Park, no DOB or nationality given. On exhibit at the Clay Studio, Philadelphia in 2023


The artist is thinking about the human experience during the not-finished Covid 19 pandemic.






Love Song for Ukraine, 2022, ceramic, metal, fabric.  

Tip Toland, American born 1950. On exhibit at The Clay Studio, Philadelphia in 2023.


Russia invaded the Ukraine at the time when the artist began this piece.

He was given a harmonica by his grandmother when he was 11 and considers it an instrument which gives breathing a voice. 

His creations are usually of the young or the old because he is interested in the combination of innocence and extreme complexity exhibited during these ages.





An Arm Bent Back, 2022, stoneware, glaze. (Based on Laocoön and His Sons).

Chris Rodgers, no DOB or nationality given. On display at the Clay Studio in 2023.


The original statue was of sea serpents said by Virgil to have been sent by Apollo to strangle Laocoön,and his sons. They are in agony.

They had been on their way to warn the Trojans of a Greek invasion.

The statue was lost until 1506 and when, discovered, Laocoön, was found to have a missing arm.  (The right arms of the sons were also missing. They were restored and again removed). It was thought that the arm was reaching upwards. 

Laocoön’s arm, itself discovered in the 20th century, was found to be reaching backwards and not upwards.


The artist has flattened and distorted Laocoön’s arm to show the changed understandings of its position over time as a metaphor of the changes which art has made in our understanding of history and of the human condition.





Eva XV, earthenware, earthen pigment from Puerto Rico,  casein, lime, oxides; 2022. 

Cristina Cordova, no DOB, no nationality given.  On display at the Clay Studio in 2023.


The artist has been sculpting her daughter, Eva, here at 15, since she was 9. 

The words on her back – ‘from mountain and sea’ – are from a Puerto Rican song of national pride and independence called Verde Luz by El Topo (Antonio Cabal Vale). 

The series of sculptures of her daughter are representative of the passing of time and the political maturing of her island home.






Self-portrait as Street, 2019, earthenware, concrete, resin, found objects, base, chains, gun parts. 

Robert Lugo, American born 1981.  On display at the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021


The artist describes himself  as ‘a ghetto potter, activist, culture-maker, rapper, spoken word poet and educator.’ 

He is based in Philadelphia and he attributes to his art his salvation from the dangerous fate of many young urban men on the streets of America’s great cities.






La Linda – Shipibo-Conibo, 2021; clay, underglazes, glaze, aluminum, white gold leaf. 

Kukuli Velarde, American born Peru 1962. Loaned by the artist to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 2021


One of a series of sculptures called ‘Corpus’.

The artist said: “Corpus is about endurance.  The amazing capability we have to adapt and survive, led by hope, strengthened by cultural and communal identity.  Capability tested in times of crisis like today when our contemporary history is in turmoil.”





Street shrine 2, earthenware. 

Robert Lugo, American born 1981. On display at the Clay Studio in 2023


Street shrines, almost always ephemeral, are a Philadelphia institution to mark the public place of a killing, often of a young person or of a child caught in a gun cross-fire.





Put Down the Man Baby, 2022, earthenware.

Roxanne Swentzell, no DOB, no nationality given.  On display at the Clay Studio, Philadelphia in 2023.







Semillas de Manana, Seeds of Tomorrow,2022; earthenware, second-hand fiber, gold luster, steel, wood.

Jonathan Christensen Caballero, no DOB, no nationality given.  On display at the Clay Studio in 2023.


This piece, the artist says, is part of a larger work in which he details the history of Mexican railroad workers and their families who moved to Lawrence, KS to build the Santa Fe Railroad.  Narratives of this people speak of the gardens they originated and tended for food and flowers.


The artist’s mother is an immigrant from Panama.  He says: ‘ It is imperative for Latin Americans to be celebrated as part of the fabric of US society.  Our bodies are not solely destined for labor but also for love, joy, and acceptance’.





Me and You, stoneware, 2022.

Kensuke Yamada, no DOB, no nationality given.  On display at The Clay Studio, Philadelphia in 2023.

The artist is giving thanks to the Clay Studio’s philosophy and practice of communality through the medium of clay.





On The Way, 2022, porcelain.

Sergei Isupov, Estonian born 1963, Stavropole, USSR; raised and educated the Ukraine and Tallinn, Estonia at a time when all 3 were part of the Soviet Union.


From the experiences of his life, the artist illustrates what is universal.

Here the balance many live in:  the struggle for a sense of security and order in a life when chaos and mayhem may lie just around the corner.









4 thoughts on “Figuration in clay after 2000

  1. magnifiques céramiques !
    Cela rappelle que la céramique, le fait de modeler de l’argile et de faire durcir le résultat en le cuisant au feu, a été inventé il y a 25000 ans pour fabriquer des figurines.
    D’où, sans doute l’idée biblique de Dieu prenant de l’argile pour modeler Adam.

  2. Je suis d’accord avec vous, Louis.
    C’est assez rare aujourd’hui de voir les ceramiques si larges parce qu’elles sont difficiles a faire. Mais magnifiques!

  3. Fascinating! What variety and show of extraordinarily unique creativity!. Love the comment re: the harmonica from the Ukrainian. Thank you for such a full record of this work in clay.

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