Parfleche (w8), earthenware and glaze, 16.25” x 11″ x 2”

A master of ceramics, Cary Esser, explores the aesthetic and technical edge of possibility within the medium in her new series of wall reliefs, The Second Surface. Esser’s inspiration for this series comes from two sources, the experience of visiting the ancient caves of Cappadocia, Turkey and of seeing historic examples of the Native American Parfleche, softened rectangles of folded hide that form carrying cases. Motivated by the history, a sense of enclosure and mystery, and the experience of light and shadow, Esser has created her own Parfleche series of envelope-like forms that are both strong yet vulnerable.

Esser’s Parfleches are defined by uniform skins of texture ranging from a sleek, black, sheen to a soft, dry, white crackle and everything in between. The form seems held by the surface, often as delicate as a breath, fragile yet resilient. The combination of the two is inseparable, poetic and powerful as they conspire to reveal or conceal an interior that can be glimpsed but never fully known.

Cary Esser is the Chair of Ceramics at the Kansas City Art Institute. Her work is in the collections of Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS; Daum Museum of Contemporary Art, Sedalia, MO; Archie Bray Foundation, Helena, MT; John Michael Kohler Art Center, Sheboygan, WI, and numerous others.






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