Linger here and fill up with fantastical tales

Ceramic sculptures inspired by artist’s culture

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Gerardo Monterrubio uses his ceramic sculptures as palettes for creating magical, terrifying, mythical stories incorporating his culture. An exhibition of the Los Angeles-based artist, “Laberintos Del Delirio” (“Labyrinths of Delirium”) is currently at The Something Machine in Bellport.

Be aware: Pondering each of Monterrubio’s nine works is akin to entering a fantastical portal.

“There’s a storybook in each piece,” admitted curator Jeffrey Uslip. “He’s an L.A.-based Mexican who comes from Oaxaca.”

Three lipstick-shaped works that jump out in this intimate gallery are positively jaw-dropping. (Actually, the whole exhibit is. You can’t stop looking.)

“His lipsticks are evocative of phalluses and bullets, but it’s about his family’s cultural narrative,” Uslip explained.

In “Marcellina’s Flood,” wind and rain blasts a young woman’s hair as she tries to shelter, mountains rear in the background; you see a man with an ox, a woman carrying a bundle, a child with a pig tucked under her arm, all fleeing, all below the glistening red form. “He made it look like it’s raining and the environmental conditions they’re living in,” Uslip noted.

At the base, under a gorgeous spiral of gold, is a tumble of villagers, mother and child, and animals in anguish, destroyed. A 24-karat-gold kintsugi technique is applied, vein-like, threaded through the narrative as in broken places make you stronger. 

The scenes echo a family story of a matriarch who survived and persevered through numerous challenges and atrocities, including the death of her children.

Uslip’s favorite in the exhibit is “A Walk Home.”

“I feel like he’s pushed the cacophony and density of the narrative to the breaking point,” said Uslip of the imagery. “The glaze has moved from a two-dimension application to a 3-D sculptural space.” A sailing ship that’s storm swept, images of two women, one with fire coming out of her mouth, and some very bad men, evolve around the base.

The veiled Virgin Mary sculpture, “31: 17-18,” 2019, her arms open, standing on top of the Earth, has images of war, violent masculinity, and its victims. Its title references two Biblical passages. “The key is that he’s linking Catholic imagery with pre-Columbian histories,” Uslip said.

The artist, who works in both terracotta and porcelain, draws with an underglaze, then envelopes the entirety of his object’s surface in graphic imagery. “It’s drawing into sculpture,” Uslip added.

You have to view all sides for each piece; they demand time and thought.

It’s pretty powerful stuff.

In a PBS “Craft in America” YouTube segment, Monterrubio, born in 1979, respectfully describes the origin of his story art, including family influences and what attracts him to his medium. “My work is, ‘what are you bringing to the table in the 10,000-year history of ceramics,’” he said. You’ll watch him literally hack out clay forms outside, part of his studio space; then a story coalesces.

The show opened on April 9 with Monterrubio at the exhibit. “It was a magical opening, and we had over 50 people here to greet him and celebrate,” Uslip said.

The Something Machine is located at the Istvan Gas Station on Station Road in Bellport. Parking spaces are available on the west side of the lot. It’s open Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Look for The Something Machine on Instagram or the website wwwthesomethingmachine.com.

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