My sculptures re-imagine the disabled body and present confinement and dependence as sensual and joyful conditions. Each ceramic serves as a tiny tapestry loom or shaped core for a woven basket, and in turn the weaving holds the porcelain in place. I work in miniature and use materials historically associated with domestic crafts to merge the functional with the so-called functionless - a nod to the ways physical disabilities have been defined against classical ideals. The resulting hybrid figures intertwine in gestures at once erotic and assistive, knitted to each other and the furniture in states of supplication or repressed bodily autonomy. These intimate scenes are set as if for an eagle-eyed critic: a sickbed, a votive offering, a moment of private pleasure together insist that nothing is too sacred to be comical, or to be shared. -Em Kettner
Goldfinch is thrilled to present Em Kettner's solo exhibition "Play the Fool" in Gallery 1.
The exhibition features 27 small-scale porcelain sculptures bound together by vibrantly graphic woven costumes decorating their exaggerated and frequently elongated limbs. "I'm interested in how 'the fool' can topple established power dynamics by leaning fully into their perceived shortcomings and physical anomalies," Kettner explains of these works. The figures' fanciful costumes, she notes, "enhance what is erotic, strange, and celebratory about them, while distracting from their assumed submissive status." Arranged throughout the Gallery like intimate theater scenes seen from an eagle-eyed vantage point and depicting, for example, a sickbed, a votive offering, and a moment of private pleasure, Kettner's sculptures bring notions of the Carnivalesque and its reversals of expected hierarchies in conversation with contemporary discourses on disability culture, Otherness, marginality and radical beauty while playfully insisting that "nothing is too sacred to be comical, to be shared."
Em Kettner (b. 1988, Philadelphia, PA) is based in El Cerrito, California. She received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has taught there as a Lecturer in the Painting + Drawing, Contemporary Practices, and Liberal Arts departments. Em is currently the Exhibitions Assistant and a Facilitator for the Ceramics, Textiles, and Drawing departments at NIAD Art Center, a studio and gallery space that supports neurodiverse artists in the Bay Area. Em has a rare form of muscular dystrophy, and creates ceramic-textile sculptures that address misconceptions related to agency and sexuality in the disability community. Recent exhibitions include those at Western Exhibitions and Andrew Rafacz Gallery (Chicago, IL); Field Projects and HARPY (New York, NY), Rare Visions (Boulder, CO); Dream Farm Commons and Massman Gallery (Oakland, CA); and an upcoming solo exhibition at François Ghebaly Gallery (Los Angeles, CA). Em has been the recipient of an SAIC Teaching Fellowship, the MIUSA Women's Institute on Leadership and Disability, and the 2019-2020 AAC Diversity + Leadership Fellowship.