Wilma Cruise Earthworks/ClayBodies (2003) | Art.co.za | Art in South Africa
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Earthworks/ClayBodies (2003)

“In the 'Claybody' series …we are presented with bodies that are hunched and armless, ones that appear to be shivering and are, not only physically but also psychologically, turned in on themselves. Jagged marks scored across the figures defy an understanding of the skin as a definitive boundary for the body: what appear to be slashes or wounds to skin and flesh create a sense that these figures are ruptured. The title of each of these works - 'Claybody' - is itself suggestive of the body in a condition of susceptibility, of flesh that is violable and permeable.

The imagery in the 'Claybody' series was informed by the artist's concern with her medium and its implied meanings. While they are made of clay, the sculptures in the 'Claybody' series simultaneously represent clay that has been smeared over the body. …this use of a material to represent itself, as it were, allows Cruise to offer an ironical comment on the Modernist notion of 'truth to materials' - a concept that she has defied continuously since she first began working in clay in the 1970s. Commonly associated with the production of small-scale ceramics for domestic use, objects made through clay are not only frequently dismissed as 'craft' rather than 'art', as 'pottery' rather than 'sculpture', or as 'utilitarian' rather than 'aesthetic', but they are also often identified disparagingly with an aesthetic consciousness that is 'feminine' rather than 'masculine'. …By using clay to represent clay in the 'Claybody' series, Cruise might well argue that she is in fact being utterly 'true' to her medium - even if, as it happens, this gesture manifests itself via large-scale sculptures” (from Initiating in between-ness: Wilma Cruise's claybody sculptures by Brenda Schmahmann: in Earthworks/Claybodies, 2003. (A catalogue produced for the exhibition at the Pretoria Art Museum.)

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