The exhibition is comprising a series of new large-scale porcelain sculptures is titled Caryatid after the sculpted female figures used as supporting columns in ancient Greek architecture. These sculptures engage critically with women’s traditional role of support within the domestic sphere and serve to highlight the strength drawn from femininity.
Totemic in structure, the caryatid sculptures are made up of opposites. These hybrids are at once female and male, animal and human, animate and inanimate. Reworking the female form, DiMattio explores conflicting expectations of womanhood, presenting feminine identity as a balancing act, precarious and full of contrasting possibilities. Funereal wreaths are paired with pool floats, a bronze presidential memorial is paired with a gas tank and a mannequin torso is adorned with rococo floral glazes. The resultant forms highlight the surprising closeness of opposing qualities, both cultural and material.
The artist mines the history of sculpture and of ceramics to examine how imagery moves through cultures and history. Ranging from revered Ming vases to disposable knick-knacks, these associations display shifting notions of value and beauty. While DiMattio uses the material to represent the domestic and the feminine, she surprises and subverts by presenting towering and seemingly impossible forms. Translating each reference through her own hand and underlining formal similarities, she unites these seemingly disparate objects, compressing time and space.
The artist’s practice continues to draw on the history of craft and the decorative arts, often re-evaluating their narratives through a feminist lens. By highlighting this instability of meaning, DiMattio collapses hierarchies between high and low culture destabilising fixed perceptions of identity and prompting further questions.
Header image: Francesca DiMattio, Flamingo Caryatid, 2019, glaze on porcelain, 243.8 x 66 x 81.3 cm, 96 x 26 x 32 in.