a contemporary art gallery in Chicago
Tender to the Bone
Tender to the Bone

Tender to the Bone

September 12 – October 30, 2021

Featuring works by E. Saffronia Downing, Jory Drew, Dove Drury, Em Kettner, Minami Kobayashi, Laura Letinsky, SaraNoa Mark, Liz McCarthy, and Elissa Osterland


Click to Download Tender to the Bone Exhibition Checklist


Laura Letinsky, A Bloom. Porcelain, dimensions vary. Courtesy of Document, Chicago.


Clay bodies, like living bodies (animal, environmental, etc.) are porous, vulnerable, and penetrable: microcosms of living and dying processes. Through a range of ceramic forms, the nine artists in “Tender to the Bone” expose relationships between malleability and calcification—the ossifying, changing, breaking, and “resoftening” parts of life. Here, material relationships between hard and soft/surface and interior/flesh and bone lead to deeper inquiries into the natures of desire, exhaustion, grief, and openness to change.

Elissa Osterland, “Still from performance, Proscenium,” 2021.
A small square tile embedded in pale pine wood with a vertical wavy grain. The tile features a drawing done with grey ceramic pencil on the flat white porcelain surface. The image shows two hands with fingers interlaced; where the hands meet, a tiny spider descends on a thread toward the bottom edge of the tile. The glassy surface is textured all over with connected, branching cracks.
Em Kettner, “Lattice,” 2021, glazed porcelain tile embedded in pine, 5.5 x 6.5 x 1 in.

In her book “Keats’s Odes: A Lover’s Discourse,” writer Anahid Nersessian refers to the Latin term “remocellit,” used in Ovid’s telling of Pygmalion and his sculpture brought to life from stone. Though frequently translated to mean “softening,” the term more accurately means “resoftening” indicating something cyclical—phases of material change in relation to life and bodies or bodily forms. The sculpture thaws as it comes to life, as though alive before: “Softens then hardens, then softens again, reciprocal like living flesh,” Nersessian writes. Likewise, the works in Tender to the Bone explore how things that appear lost, buried, or solidified can reconstitute themselves as something else, from fragments of earth and forms mimicking natural landscapes to urns and vessels glazed with bone ash.

Minami Kobayashi, “Whispering Vases,” 2021, 6 x 5 x 5 inches.
Dove Drury, “Lightning Bolt Split My Brains From Above, I Want To Be Destroyed By The Storms Of Love,” 2020, stoneware, glaze.

Many of these sculptures acknowledge that they are not yet in their final forms, quietly awaiting further metamorphoses, and open to the possibilities of being broken; being filled; being emptied; being touched and, perhaps, being changed because of it.

–Elizabeth Lalley, assistant director and exhibition curator

Installation Views:


Artist Bios/Descriptions 

E. Saffronia Downing (b. 1992) works with clay to map material residues across time and place. She received her BA in Studio Art from Hampshire College and her MFA in Ceramics from School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Downing forages local material to create site-specific installation and sculpture. She is the co-creator of the digital publication Viral Ecologies.She teaches the course Knowledge Lab: Craft Ecologies in the Sculpture Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Downing is the recipient of awards and residencies such as the Lunder Institute Fellowship, the Oxbow School of Art Fellowship, ACRE Residency, and Salem Art Works Studio Artist Residency.  Her work was recently featured in the Fall 2019 Setouchi Triennial in Japan. She has also exhibited nationally at numerous across the country. 

Jory Drew is an interdisciplinary artist and educator based in Chicago, IL. Their work reckons with the social constructions of race, gender, and love and how they influence the economic, legal, and political conditions that affect black intimacy and liberation. They have exhibited locally and nationally and have participated in residencies at Hyde Park Art Center (Chicago, IL), ACRE (Steuben, WI/Chicago, IL.), Open Kitchen (Milwaukee, WI.), and Hot Box (Austin, TX.). They are currently a co-lead artist for the Teen Creative Agency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and may also be recognized as a Co-founder of F4F, a domestic venue in Little Village, and a Co-organizer of Beauty Breaks, an intergenerational beauty and wellness workshop series for black people along the spectrum of femininity.

Dove Drury Hornbuckle is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice derives from the belief that art making is a somatic ritual to witness and investigate the multiplicities of the Self. They received their MFA in ceramics from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2018; following their degree they were a 2018 fellow at the Ox-Bow School of Art and Artists’ Residency where they currently serve as the Ceramics Studio Manager. Hornbuckle has exhibited their artwork nationally and internationally over the past decade; they were awarded a 2020 teaching fellowship at Vermont Studio Center and in April 2020 they exhibited in a two person show at Roots & Culture in Chicago, IL with artist Dæ Ja.

Drury’s stoneware vessels are hand built using the coiling technique, a foundational process of ceramics in which coils of clay are stacked on top of each other and smoothed with the hands to create a form. Note from the artist: “I intentionally utilized thick coils for the vessels in order to work my hands deep into the clay. This produced a unique choreography of movements for each layer, as I dramatically and intuitively pushed and pulled the clay almost to its breaking point. The work is often made in energetic bursts in the studio, carving my intensive labor into the clay that results in deep trenches, gouged ravines and undulated spines throughout the work. The process-oriented making of the work, the formal structure and surface design all become integrated and self-referential as the piece develops. Years of painting and creating 2d work comes into play with my painterly glazing sensibility. I work with glaze as a cerebral celebration of color, allowing the glazes to splash, drip, bubble and surprise me with their saturated and titillating hues and textures.”

Em Kettner (b. 1988, Philadelphia, PA) received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and has taught there as a Lecturer in the Painting + Drawing, Contemporary Practices, and Liberal Arts departments. Em is currently the Exhibitions Coordinator and a Studio 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 works to upend misconceptions related to agency and sexuality in the disability community. 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. Em weaves, writes, and fires clay out in El Cerrito, California.

“My sculptures 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 is represented by Goldfinch in Chicago.

Minami Kobayashi (b.1989 Japan) is currently based in London. She makes figurative egg tempera and oil paintings which combine intimacy and mystery through their depictions of ordinary people, animals, and places that seem vaguely surreal and ever so slightly off-kilter. She has had solo exhibitions at Goldfinch Gallery (Chicago) and Baby Blue Gallery (Chicago) and has exhibited in group shows at Tokyo Metropolitan Museum, Setouchi International Triennale 2019 (Japan), Western Exhibitions (Chicago), Stems gallery(Belgium),Dongdaemun Design Plaza (South Korea) ,and numerous other venues. She participated in a solo residency at Kate’s little angel (Los Angeles) Kobayashi’s work has been featured in publications such as New City (review, February 2019), Elephant Magazine (UK). She holds an MFA in Painting and Drawing from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago (2018) and a BFA in Painting from Tokyo University of the Arts (2016). She is represented by Goldfinch in Chicago.

­­­­­­­­Laura Letinsky, BFA from the University of Manitoba, 1986, and MFA from Yale University’s School of Art, 1991, is a Professor in the Department of Visual Art at the University of Chicago. Recent exhibitions include the To Want For Nothing, Document, Chicago, The Canadian Representative at the Israeli International Photography Festival, Neither Natural nor Necessary, Mumbai Photography Festival, Mumbai, India, Producing Subjects, MIT, Cambridge, MA, The Telephone Game, Basel Design, IIl Form and Void Full, The Photographers Gallery, London, and Laura Letinsky: Still Life, Denver Art Museum, CO.  Previous shows include the Getty Museum, Los Angeles; The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, Casino Luxembourg; Museum of Modern Art, New York; and The Renaissance Society, Chicago. Collections include the Art Institute of Chicago; Hermes Collection, Paris, France, The Microsoft Art Collection, Seattle, WA, The Amon Carter Museum, The John Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; The Musee de Beaux-Arts, Montreal, QUE; The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, TX; and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York represents her, and she shows with Galerie m Bochum in Bochum, Germany. A Professor at the University of Chicago since 1994, she’s also taught at the Yale University School of Art Summer Program, The University of Houston, and Bennington College. Grants and awards include the Canada Council International Residency, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, The Canada Council Project Grants, The Anonymous Was a Woman Award, and the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship. Publications include Time’s Assignation, Radius Books, 2017, Ill Form and Void Full, Radius Books, 2014, Feast, Smart Museum of Art, UC Press, 2013, After All, Damiani, 2010, Hardly More Than Ever, Renaissance Society, 2004, Blink, Phaidon Press, 2002, and Venus Inferred, University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Letinsky is represented in Chicago by Document gallery.

SaraNoa Mark (b. 1991, New York, NY) pursues a drawing practice that investigates traces left by time, as they exist in landscapes and in collective memory. Mark’s work has been supported by a Fulbright research fellowship in Turkey. SaraNoa was named a Visual Arts Fellow by the Luminarts Cultural Foundation. They have received grants from U.S. Embassy Grants Program in Turkey, The John Anson Kittredge Fund, Illinois Arts Council, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events Individual Artists Program (DCASE), and a SPARK grant. Mark’s work has been acquired by the West Collection through a LIFTS grant. Upon graduating from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts SaraNoa was awarded a European travel scholarship. SaraNoa was a BOLT resident at the Chicago Artists Coalition, and has held residencies at the Montello Foundation, Jackman Goldwasser Residency at the Hyde Park Art Center, The Lois and Charles X. Carlson Painting Residency, Sedona Summer Colony, and Art Kibbutz. Recent exhibitions of their work have taken place at the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL; Bridge Projects, Los Angeles, CA; Davis & Langdale Company, New York, NY; Goldfinch Gallery, Chicago, IL; Tiger Strikes Astroid, Philadelphia, PA; Monaco, St. Louis, MO; Smithsonian Institution’s S. Dillon Ripley Center, Washington, DC among others. SaraNoa is one of NewCity’s 2021 breakout artists. She is a co-director at the 4th Ward Project Space in Chicago where she lives and works.

Liz McCarthy is a Chicago-based artist combining ceramics with other mediums to interrogate material and cultural modes of collective performativity. She received her MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Studio Art and her BFA from the University of North Carolina at Asheville in Photography. Her mix of performance, sculpture, and installation have been exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Hyde Park Art Center in Chicago; Ghebaly Gallery in Los Angeles; ExGirlfriend in Berlin; and numerous Chicago galleries. Currently she acts as Founding Director of the GnarWare Workshop ceramics school, and is Faculty in Ceramics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Elissa Osterland is a Chicago-based artist currently exploring material, place and memory through site-specific methods of sourcing and firing clay. Elissa was a 2019 fellow at Theaster Gates Studio and a Center Program 8 artist at Hyde Park Art Center. Currently, she is pursuing an M.F.A. in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago.