Dorothy Feibleman: New Works in Porcelain

Dorothy Feibleman: New Works in Porcelain


Collection of Dorothy Feibleman's porcelain cups and bowls. Photo/Kubota.

Dorothy Feibleman: New Works in Porcelain
Mobilia Gallery
Cambridge, Massachusetts
May 2-May 30, 2009

Dorothy Feibleman's spare porcelain forms—precise and finished to translucent, weightless perfection—elevate the art of pattern making to an extraordinary degree. In Feibleman’s hands, the ancient Japanese technique of nerikomi—in which ceramic objects are decorated with patterns created by combining different, often differently colored, clays—has been reinvented through the introduction of ideas drawn from glassmaking, mosaic art, jewelry making and other disciplines. Obsessively ornamented, with patterns that multiply across their surfaces, Feibleman's most striking works are reminiscent of objects as diverse as blue-and-white Delftware, central Asian metalwork and printed Indian cottons. This range of references, open-minded in its breadth, suggests one source of Feibleman’s highly personalized manner of expression, as well as her refined decorative language.

Where Feibleman’s work differs from that of many other ceramists is that with each piece built almost exclusively from nerikomi patterns assembled to create the body of the object, its ornamentation is intrinsic to its structure, rather than being applied to the surface after completion of the form. In this way, decorative considerations are given equal weight with shape and balance, formal concerns that are emphasized in some areas of ceramics today at the expense of decoration.

Prominent in “Dorothy Feibleman: New Works in Porcelain” is an untitled installation that demonstrates pattern making of an entirely different order. Composed of dozens of leaf-, petal- and shell-like forms scattered across a light table, the installation exploits the subtle variations that occur within similar, hand-formed shapes to suggest both incremental growth and unrestrained energy. While the overall theme is one of profusion and generosity, the arrangement of the objects seems refreshingly relaxed when compared to her more highly ordered pieces. At the same time, the sheer bounty of the installation is undercut by the translucence and fragility of the individual forms, bringing a sense of impermanence and emotional depth to what otherwise might simply overwhelm us with its abundance.

In the diversity of its references, as well as the ease in which it moves from precision to more relaxed idioms, Feibleman's porcelain offers a counterpoint to the work of other artists represented by Mobilia Gallery, a 30-year-old enterprise devoted to a range of textiles, jewelry, ceramics and other decorative arts. Through its absorption and transformation of techniques drawn from other disciplines, Feibleman's work resists insularity and faintheartedness, despite its relatively small scale. It stands on equal footing with the furniture, mixed-media objects and other works on view, a testament to the singularity and understated strength of its maker.

Scott Norris is a weaver who lives and works in Florence, Massachusetts.