Telling Stories with Sculpture: Kevin Snipes’ Lively Ceramics

Artist Kevin Snipes’ artistic origins trace back to adolescence, when he would share doodles of Snoopy with his friends and enrolled in a pottery class in order to spend time with a girl he was fond of. Fast forward to 1994, when he received a BFA in both drawing and ceramics from the Cleveland Institute of Art, and went on to pursue a career as a ceramic artist, making dynamic sculptural vessels covered with intricate drawings of stylistic human figures. His works are the results of an intuitive approach that draws from personal experience and his own psyche rather than working from a conceptual or studied standpoint.

Snipes’ diverse, dynamic existence—born from a nomadic lifestyle and residency programs across the country—is reflected in his work, recently on view in “Pop Up” at Duane Reed Gallery in St. Louis. Most of the sculptures, or “pots” as Snipes has referred to them, are vase-like, hollow and tall. He has also made teapots and shorter works resembling bowls. His forms are always organic and fluid, some with protuberances—like the perforated orange tail growing from Mask (2014), or the black handle on Teapot (2014). At times, the irregularities encompass aspects of the surface drawings like in Big Hair (2014), where the triangular upper section of the pot becomes a woman’s hairdo, or Oubliette (2014), where on one side the protrusion is a beach ball.

The surfaces of Snipes’ sculptures are colorful and exuberant. He uses a mélange of glazing techniques and etching styles in combination with patterns, drawings, and scattered text to create a lively scene on each piece, featuring his own cast of characters. Viewing Photographer (2014) from one angle, you see a reclined nude female, her gaze pointed to the right, and on the opposite side a man kneels before a camera and tripod. Each of Snipes’ works tells a story, or, depending on how it’s viewed, several stories.

—Makiko Wholey

Pop Up” is on view at Duane Reed Gallery, St. Louis, June 21st–July 26th, 2014.

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