Beth Katleman, ‘Hostile Nature’, 2014, Todd Merrill Studio
Beth Katleman, ‘Hostile Nature’, 2014, Todd Merrill Studio

The first time you see Hostile Nature, you feel as though you have returned to a place that is familiar and comforting, a refuge of creamy white against a placid green background. With its delicate scroll work, garlands of flowers, and framed allegories in teal and white porcelain, Hostile Nature is inspired by Jasperware and by an opulent 18th Century print room wallpaper from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

With its florid references to the 18th century, this installation by Beth Katleman evokes a world of genteel pleasure, only to reveal a more subversive agenda. The closer one gets, the more one is struck Katleman’s naughty Arcadia.
The pastoral scenes are populated with figurines cast from her collection of flea-market treasures, icons from popular culture, and a profusion of delicate, handmade roses. The ambiguous narratives contain hints of misbehavior:a boy with a banjo serenades a giant rooster, a sailor boy encounters a bikini clad siren guarding her treasure, and a pig-tailed girl with a tennis racket fights off a flock of menacing birds. Gentle woodland creatures appear here in a less wholesome guise. 18th Century decoration provides a perfect foil for Katleman’s explorations of consumption and desire.
Recently exhibited at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, Katleman’s Hostile Nature is a unique, handmade porcelain work of art.
Katleman’s sculptures and installations have been described by Ken Johnson in the New York Times as “doll-sized rococo theaters of murder and domestic mayhem.” Her work has been exhibited internationally, most recently at Gallery Seoul 12, Seoul, South Korea, the Pavilion of Art and Design/New York, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, Pavilion of Art and Design/London, Design Miami/Basel, Pavilion des Art & Design, Paris, the Jane Hartsook Gallery, New York and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco. Her work has garnered critical attention in the Financial Times, the New York Times, The Art Economist, American Ceramics, Ceramics Art and Perception and Sculpture Magazine in the U.S., and in La Tribune e Moi, Paris, The Art Newspaper, Basel, Grand Design Magazine, Shanghai, Cacao Magazine, Taiwan, and numerous other publications. Most recently Katleman was profiled in “A Great Relief” by Nicole Swengley in the Financial Times (April 17, 2013). She is represented in the collections of the M.H. de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA, the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, WI, Kohler Company, Kohler, WI, the Kamm Teapot Foundation, Sparta, NC, the Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, MT, Ci Kim Arario Gallery Collection, Seoul, Korea, and many private collections both in the U.S. and abroad. “Demi Folly” was also acquired for the Christian Dior flagship boutique in Hong Kong. “Folly” was awarded Best Decorative Piece at the Pavilion of Art and Design/New York in 2011. Katleman holds a BA in English from Stanford University, an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art and an MBA in Arts Management from UCLA. She has taught at Pratt Institute, New York University and Greenwich House Pottery in New York. Born in Park Forest, Illinois, Katleman lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Dimensions: 96″ H x 70″ W x 5″ D

About Beth Katleman

In the late 1990s, Beth Katleman exhibited an elaborately adorned porcelain toilet on the floor next to a work by Andy Warhol. More recently, Katleman’s ornate ceramic sculptures have made their way to the walls in compositions that resemble three-dimensional toile. In all of Katleman’s work, she fuses florid Rococo aesthetics with mischievous, sardonic details that question traditional modes of decorative and narrative art. Taking a close look at Girls at War (2013), for instance, reveals closer associations to Henry Darger’s dystopian paintings of armies of young girls brandishing guns than it does bucolic, Baroque picnic scenes.

American, b. 1959, Park Forest, Illinois, based in Brooklyn, New York