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I have been reflecting a lot on post-Carleton stuff lately.  One of the things that is getting me through is looking at the work of Dustin Yager, a Carleton alum from not that long ago.  We met him at NCECA where he had a piece in the La Mesa.  The piece in the show was called “Orgy Basket” — a pristine porcelain basket with simple line drawings of men having sex with other men.  He filled the basket with flowers, which I think is a particularly memorable touch.

Porcelain, 2010; image from ceramicsandtheory.com

Much of Dustin’s work is in series form (with some exceptional titles): “Will You Fake Marry Me?“, the series that the Orgy Basket is from, which includes many other baskets adorned with various masculine/feminine/gay/straight visual indicators; “Rimware“, a porcelain table set with gold lustered rims, on which  are drawn illustrations of various stages of a rim job; and “Cups with Something to Say“, a series of porcelain cups on which he wrote or imprinted phrases often heard in the context of gay/queer culture, but also phrases relating to sexual relationships.  I love how he pairs a very drawing technique with brash and uncomfortable images.  His work is astonishing, and I am very glad to have met him.

Dustin is an artist that I really relate to.  He approaches ceramics as a vehicle to express ideas about culture and form.  He makes beautiful pieces in their own right, but what makes them exceptional is the decorative elements.  He combines drawing, pottery, and commentary seamlessly into his pieces.  They make the viewer uncomfortable, which is something I always appreciate especially because his work deals with queer issues and those are very important to me.  Sometimes I find it frustrating to make ceramic work (particularly thrown work) that isn’t just beautiful and functional.   It’s not that that area of ceramics isn’t valuable and fantastic, but sometimes I find myself aching to make something more meaningful.  It is reassuring to find artists making poignant work combining traditional ceramic forms, substance, and beautiful surfaces.

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