Nourishing Objects: Angelik Vizcarrondo-Laboy

Nourishing Objects: Angelik Vizcarrondo-Laboy

Contributors share stories behind meaningful works.
sculptural ceramic vessel featuring textured brown clay smiling and frowning masks and punk-inspired studs and chains

Photo by Black Box Photography, courtesy of Center for Craft, Asheville, NC.

I spent copious time in 2020 investigating the role of humor in ceramics as a tool of resistance, resilience, and healing, in navigating a range of pressing sociopolitical issues for Sleight of Hand, an exhibition I curated for the Center for Craft in Asheville, North Carolina. The context of a devastating global pandemic, the rise in Black Lives Matter protests to denounce police brutality and systemic racism, and a contentious presidential election underscored this subject’s timeliness. In a moment when reflection, perspective, care, growth, and action are priorities, Smile Now Cry Later, a ceramic sculpture by Los Angeles-based Latinx artist Diana Yesenia Alvarado, included in the show, brought a meaningful lesson into focus.

The earthenware piece, composed of two tubular forms joined at the bottom and top, showcases the drama masks of comedy and tragedy. The former smiles while the latter frowns and a teardrop rolls down its cheek. These faces are stylized with clown makeup, a figure that often navigates the line between jolliness and misery. Alvarado’s work centers on vulnerability and strength, seeming opposites that complement each other. This dialogue is most evident through the juxtaposition of the cuteness in the masks’ rendering and the punk aesthetics of faux studs and chains that decorate the sculpture.

Delving deeper into this object, I better grasped the concept of life’s coexisting dualities. Most important of all: that it is essential to find joy in the face of strife and oppression. Laughing and having fun, as well as resting, do not invalidate the serious work of fighting for real systemic change at any scale. There is great subversive power in happiness, leisure, and pleasure. Notably, many artists of color emphasize this notion in their work. Smile Now Cry Later is a reminder to arm yourself with a smile as you go into battle.

Based in New York and Los Angeles, Angelik Vizcarrondo-Laboy is a curator, writer, and arts administrator of contemporary art and craft, focusing on ceramics and amplifying the voices of artists of color. She serves as assistant curator at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), New York.

angelikvizcarrondo.com | @angelik.wiki

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Cover of Winter 2022 issue of American Craft