“Extremely resilient yet fragile” is how artist Karolina Romanowska describes the moody, anthropomorphic characters that comprise her series of sculptural works. Romanowska hand-builds a vast array of fantastical personas from clay, using a combination of slabs, coils, and molds to form flat tongues, individual teardrops, and horns with pointed tips. The contradictions inherent within the figures’ expressions are the conceptual counterpart to the ceramic material, she says, referring to both its ability to withstand fire and its propensity to fracture or burst upon impact.
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Based in Madison, Wisconsin, the artist gravitates toward colored slips to add dimension and texture to the stoneware pieces. “I find that material extremely giving as it’s reminiscent of my childhood days of playing in the dirt,” she tells Colossal. “Those were some of the most fun times I had as a child, engaging with my environment and transforming mud into pizzas, birds, and castles. Through mud, I am able to experience true freedom.”
Today, that creative energy manifests in Romanowska’s ceramic practice, which spans three-dimensional sculptures and masks that vary from miniature to life-sized. Minimal in construction and playfully contemporary, the cheeky works also reference cultural and art historical traditions. “Masks are present wherever humans are. I am only repeating an act that has been done since the beginning of us. Used for rituals and entertainment, masks can hide or reveal who we are,” she says.
Romanowska’s colorful works are on view through September 4 at the Overture Center in Madison, and she’ll have a few pieces in an upcoming group show at Higher Art Gallery in Traverse City. See which sculptures are available to add to your own collection on Instagram.