Kimberly Chapman embarked upon a career as a ceramics artist after a 25-year career in marketing – a shift that included earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Cleveland Institute of Art. Now a full-time artist, she has a solo show opening Jan. 24 at the McDonough Museum of Art in Youngstown.
Chapman told Canvas about her delicate porcelain sculptures which shed light on heavy and timely issues.
Tell me about the themes surrounding your work for this exhibit.
Silencing women, school shootings, domestic violence and the refugee crises are the major themes of my upcoming show “hush” at the McDonough Museum of Art in Youngstown Jan. 24 to March 7. I like to think that my art sparks dialogue – that by shedding light on dark topics it becomes part of the discourse. I chose these subjects because art tends to mirror the aesthetic standard of the day and also provides a window into the historical context of our time. I’m interested in people who fight impossible odds yet seem to survive. How do asylum seekers withstand the hardships of an international voyage only to be wrangled into miserable holding camps upon arrival? How do parents cope after losing a child in a senseless school shooting? When everything is over and finished, what’s left behind?
What’s most exciting about the show for you?
What’s most exciting for me is to share the work with the public, to jump-start conversations in the confines of a contemporary museum setting. It feels like the sculptures have been called there, almost as if they are going home or visiting a favorite aunt. I’m equally excited about the student component that involves Youngstown State University and the McDonough Museum literary collaborative, Scribe. I prepared write-ups on the show’s topics at the beginning of the school year and the museum provided 100 students with white journals. Using stamps and antique hued silver and gold inkpads they hand stamped the word “hush” on the cover of their journal. They were then asked to fill them anonymously with personal responses using artwork, writing, poetry, etc. The journals will be completed at the semester’s end and will be on display in the “hush” gallery space. What’s exciting is these students can add a line to their resume that they’ve participated in a museum show before graduation – how amazing is that?
Is there any specific piece that’s most special to you, or you’d like to highlight from the show?
Choosing a favorite piece of sculpture would be like choosing a favorite child. Because each grouping expresses such a personal concern of mine, I couldn’t choose just one – they all keep me up at night. But if I had to choose something, it would be the actual tool that belonged to my grandmother – it’s framed and part of the Elsie’s Arsenal installation. While I could replicate the porcelain tools that I made (a nod to how she protected herself and her children from her husband’s alcoholic rages), I’d never find another tool that actually belonged to my grandmother. It was my cousin Laurie who asked me if I wanted the tool a few years back (Elsie’s name is marked on the backside) and I said absolutely – that simple gesture provided the ammunition I needed to create the Arsenal.
Will you speak at the opening show Jan. 24, or will there be any upcoming artist talks?
The opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 24 is an informal gathering to visit and contemplate the work and provide a community forum. On Wednesday, March 4 at 5:10 p.m. I will give a docent led gallery tour. I hope people come and ask questions – I love thoughtful conversation!
What are you working on currently?
What’s next? While I’m still tying up loose ends for the museum show, I’m making work for RampArts, the contemporary art gallery at 78th Street Studios in Cleveland. I have a list of additional sculptures they have ordered and would like ASAP. One of the pieces went to a client from China for his wife for Christmas. Imagine that – a sculpture of mine waiting to be taken to China – the birthplace of porcelain! I’m also contemplating ideas for a themed group show with some of my ceramic buddies and have a few other things under wrap as well! This second career in ceramics is all very exciting!
Chapman’s show is on view through March 7. To read Canvas’s 2019 profile on her, visit canvascle.com/kimberly-chapman.
Lead photo: Chapman | Michael C. Butz / Canvas