Flora and Fauna: Contemporary Ceramics

March 3 - April 22


Ovidio Giberga, detail, "Mountain Lion with Retractors," 1997, Stoneware with atmospheric firing, metal, urethane, 13 x 12 x 17 in.
Installation view
Installation view
Cary Esser, detail, "Campsis radicans," 1999, Earthenware, terra sigillata, glaze, 32 ½ x 19 ½ x 1 ¼ in.
Chris Weaver, "Birdwatcher," 1999, Whiteware, brick, cement, mixed media, 33 x 22 x 6 in.
Adrian Arleo, "Hatchlings," 1999, White sculpture clay, polymer clay, wire, epoxy, three, each: 3 x 6 ½ x 3 ½ in.
Adelaide Paul, "consume/consumer/consummate," 1999, White stoneware, glaze, copper funnel, clear and red tool dip, 3 ½ x 11 x 4 in.


"Flora & Fauna" featured seven artists, including: Adrian Arleo, Neil Forrest, Ovidio C. Giberga, Marilyn Lysohir, Keisuke Mizuno, Adelaide Paul and Chris Weaver. Cary Esser, Associate Professor and Chair of the Ceramics Department at KCAI, curated the exhibition. Esser's conception for "Flora & Fauna" was prompted by her interest in plant and animal imagery in historical architectural ornament.   Her investigation of the use and significance of such motifs from antiquity and their various manifestations within art of the present are prevailing themes in the exhibition.  "Flora & Fauna," a traveling exhibition, was co-organized by Florida Craftsmen Gallery and the Kansas City Art Institute. The exhibition travelled to Karl Drerup Gallery at Plymouth State College, Plymouth, New Hampshire.
Engaging the medium of ceramics, the artists created “hybrid forms” which explore human relationships with nature, culture, plants and animals.  Perception, intuition, societal and environmental issues, and absurdism were addressed in various evocative forms, creating new insights and avenues for contemplation.  In her accompanying essay, Esser comments on clay as an appropriate material for addressing the issues put forth in "Flora & Fauna," both metaphorically and physically.  “By engaging space with clay, these artists acknowledge a reference to the earth’s foundation, which supports many life forms….touching, like seeing and speaking, is a sensibility, a tool these artists use to experience and examine their world.”

This exhibition was made possible by a grant from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency, and generous support from Bunni and Paul Copaken and the Copaken Family Foundation.




Adrian Arleo
Consider, 1999
white sculpture clay, mixed media
22 ½ x 33 ½ x 13 inches
The Bird’s Lover, 1996
white sculpture clay, glaze, stain
17 ½ x 18 ½ x 15 inches
Hatchlings, 1999
white sculpture clay, polymer clay, wire, epoxy
three, each: 3 x 6 ½ x 3 ½ inches

Neil Forrest
Trivet: Navigate, 1999
porcelain, Egyptian faience, mortar, grout
7 x 20 x 8 inches
Trivet: Trunk, 1999
porcelain, Egyptian faience, mortar, grout
2 ½ x 20 x 13 inches
Trivet: Pied, 1999
porcelain, Eqgyptian faience, mortar, grout
2 ½ x 17 ½ x 5 inches
Trivet: Barge, 1999
porcelain, Eqgyptian faience, mortar, grout
4 x 16 x 6 ½ inches

Ovidio Giberga
Mountain Goat with Headgear, 1997
stoneware with atmospheric firing, metal, urethane
24 x 15 x 18 inches
Mountain Lion with Retractors, 1997
stoneware with atmospheric firing, metal, urethane
13 x 12 x 17 inches
Coyote with Retention Brace, 1997
stoneware with atmospheric firing, metal, urethane
20 x 12 x 11 inches
Boar with Banding, 1997
stoneware with atmospheric firing, metal, rubber band

Marolyn Lysohir
Tattooed Ladies: Snake, 1999
white sculpture clay, underglaze, glaze
26 x 12 x 8 inches
Tattooed Ladies: Rose, 1999
white sculpture clay, underglaze, glaze
25 x 12 x 8 inches
Tattooed Ladies: Hand, 1999
white sculpture clay, underglaze, glaze
25 x 12 x 8 inches
Tattooed Ladies: Blue Dress with Leaves, 1999
white sculpture clay, underglaze, glaze
25 x 12 x 8 inches
Bird Tiles 2, 3, 4, 1998
white tile clay, underglaze, glaze
each 12 inch square

Keisuke Mizuno
Forbidden Fruit, 1999
porcelain, glaze, china paint
3 x 11 x 6 inches
Forbidden Fruit, 1999
porcelain, glaze, china paint
7 x 11 x 6 inches
Forbidden Fruit, 1999
porcelain, glaze, china paint
5 x 6 x 6 inches

Adelaide Paul
consume/consumer/consummate, 1999
white stoneware, glaze, copper funnel, clear and red tool dip
3 ½ x 11 x 4 inches
Horse with Lid, 1999
white stoneware, glaze, lusters
5 ½ x 10 ½ x 2 ½ inches
Prosthesis, 1999
white stoneware, glaze, steel
3 x 9 x 10 inches
Sit/Stay, 1999
white stoneware, glaze
9 ½ x 7 ½ x 3 inches

Chris Weaver
Birdwatcher, 1999
whiteware, brick, cement, mixed media
33 x 22 x 6 inches
Wild Bird, 1999
whiteware, brick, mixed media
38 x 17 x 11 inches
Varmint, 1999
white sculpture clay, brick, mixed media
38 x 11 x 17 inches

Cary Esser
Campsis radicans, 1999
earthenware, terra sigillata, glaze
32 ½ x 19 ½ x 1 ¼ inches



Selected Artist Biographies
Ovidio Giberga achieved an Associate Arts degree from Miami Dade Community College in 1988, then studied traditional marble carving techniques in Pietrasanta, Italy for five months.  He receive a Bachelor of Science degree from Florida State University in 1991, and an MFA in ceramics from the University of Florida in 1996. Giberga was a resident artist and technician at the Archie Bray Foundation for the Ceramic Arts in Helena, Montana. He is currently an adjunct assistant professor of sculpture and ceramics at the University of Florida, Gainesville.
Keisuke Mizuno received a Bachelor of Science degree from Indiana University in 1993, and an MFA from Arizona State University in 1997.  He also studied ceramics at the Kansas City Art Institute as a special status student.  His work is widely exhibited throughout the country in group and solo exhibitions.  Mizuno is currently an assistant professor of ceramics at St. Cloud University in St. Cloud, Minnesota.  His work  is in the collections of the Renwick Gallery of the National Museum of Art and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Marilyn Lysohir earned a BA from Ohio Northern University in 1972,and an MFA from Washington State University in 1979.  She teaches and participates in artist residencies at centers, including the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the Watershed Center, Newcastle, Maine, and SPF Center, Rodovre, Denmark. Lysohir has shown internationally, and created several large sculptural installations and public art projects. Lysohir also publishes and co-edits the annual journal High Ground: Art Notes from the Plateau.
Adrian Arleo has lectured and taught extensively in colleges and universities across the United States and conducted many workshops.  She graduated with honors from Pitzer College with a double major in Art and Anthropology in 1983.  She earned an MFA in ceramics from the Rhode island School of Design in 1986, and has received numerous honors, including awards from the Virginia A. Groot Foundation in 1992 and 1993, and a Montana Arts Council individual Fellowship in 1995.
Chris Weaver received a BFA from Kansas City Art Institute in 1983, and an MFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred university in 1988.  He has been a visiting instructor at several universities, including University of Nebraska, Louisiana State University and University of New Mexico.  Weaver has worked as metalsmith, an industrial potter, a historic monument conservator, a museum preparator, and an architectural ornament model and mold maker.
Adelaide Paul graduated with a BFA, Summa Cum Laude, from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University in 1993, and an MFA in ceramics from Louisiana State University in 1996.  Currently, she is an assistant professor of ceramics at Texas Tech University in Lubbock.  Paul also trains animals, particularly horses and dogs.  Her works have been exhibited in many juried and invitational shows.
Neil Forrest is an associate professor of ceramics at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.  He has exhibited and lectured on ceramics internationally.  He earned a BFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1981, and an MFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Forrest received grants from the Canada Council, the Nova Scotia Arts Council and the New York State Arts Council.




Flora & Fauna
Cary Esser


The idea for this exhibition began several years ago, inspired by my curiosity regard­ing plant and animal imagery in historical architectural ornament. Images and abstractions from nature have been used for centuries to create the shapes and embellish the surfaces of artistic forms. To read the meanings of these motifs, I searched for their sources. Ancient embellishments were often derived from indigenous plants and animals. For example, representations of the Egyptian papyrus, the Grecian acanthus, and the Indian lotus were images that carried symbolic  or visual significance. As well, they provided a connection, a mediation, between the domesticated shelter of the built environment, the cul­ture, the society, and the enigmatic, unpredictable aspects of nature. Disseminated, recycled, and reworked over centuries and in various cultures and continents, ancient motifs entered the visual lexicons of many artistic traditions. They gathered new and altered cultural meanings, and in many cases their mean­ings were consumed. Yet, regardless of a motif 's specific significance, plant and animal images used for ritual, special, or serviceable objects became visual and tactile referents to nature. They provid­ed humans with the means to examine, reflect upon, and express their relation­ships to other kinds of living beings, and by extension, the natural world. They still do.
This exhibition explores current works of seven artists who continue to mine a vast array of natural motifs. Their visual state­ments are evidence of the age-old impulse to represent  and interpret  plants  and  animals, flora and fauna. Flora and fauna are scientific terms used to describe, classify, and order the animals and plants of a given time period or region. These artists redefine the terms by inventing new forms to explore the relationships between our contemporary industrial world, human culture, and the natural environment.

these works,  we see the creations of hybrid figures that combine animal and plant with human and mechanical  anatomies. The hybrid form derives from heterogeneous sources, merg­ing elements of different or incongruent kinds. Hybrid is originally from the Latin word for the offspring of a tame sow and a wild boar; it mingles the territories of domesticity and wildness, the familiar and the unknown, the seen and the unseen, the regulated and the lawless. Each of these artists uses the hybrid form to question the place of humans in both the cultural  and natural realms.

Ovidio Giberga's big game trophy heads are burdened with, and seem stunned by, the attachments of bizarre and absurd orthodontia. The dental devices call attention to the animals' teeth as a reference to the "ancient belief that teeth embody the strength and vitality of the being." By hybridizing forms in an unexpectedand disturbing way, Giberga speaks to the "debate over how mining, logging, poaching, and urban encroachment are manipulating and tapping the strength and vital­ity of the wilderness."   In these works, human intervention - that of the hunter, the taxidermist, the dentist, and the artist - is unseen, but has left its mark.

Keisuke Mizuno's highly detailed, china-painted fruits appear to be perfect and idealized from afar, but change as the tiny sculptures come into closer range. Voracious insects feed on these luscious, delectable, but unfamiliar plant products. Embedded in the fruits' flesh like deceased, inert seeds are tiny human skulls and fetuses. A story is being told, one which reverses the pecking order of an anthropocentric view of "nature's" categories.

The restrained, anony­mous female figures made by Marilyn Lysohir are dressed in the 1940's clothing style of her mother's generation .The headless, armless figures politely stand on bases of dinosaur vertebrae from the Mesozoic Era. A prehistoric, geologic age, this period traversed hundreds of millennia, and was characterized by the development and extinction of the dinosaurs, as well as by the appearance of most flowering plants, inverte­brates, birds, and fishes of modern types. Images of these life forms, which have evolved into the conventionalized motifs of twentieth-century tattoos, are incised into the dress/bodies. Lysohir suggests the vast continuum of known time and Homo sapiens' short lifespan in the ongoing evolution of the animate world.

For Adrian Arleo, "the word 'nature' can be expanded to refer to human nature, (o r) psychological states, and 'character' in a nar­rative sense." Arleo's hybrids are interwoven elements that establish benevolent, empa­thetic bonds between plants, animals, and humans. In Hatchlings, a feral human/bird form emerges from a seed pod or egg. From another view of the same piece, the egg form transforms its shape to appear as the new life's unfolding wings. "The images are meant to be open to interpreta­tion, allowing each viewer to respond with experiences, feelings, or dreams from their own life." In Arleo's works, humans are reminded that they are an integral part of nature. Her visual stories suggest that we are part of a "primordial, greater-than­ human force" which can compel us to higher psychic realms.

The distorted, d
is­membered bodies of Adelaide Paul's horse forms are often united with rusted, found-metal parts. She lias chosen this form as a"stand-in for the (human) body". When these bodies are merge with metal scraps, as in Prosthesis, they become new beings that are ambiguous, as-yet-unconceived fruits, organs, or medical apparatus. Richly textured, organic, and colorful glazes "act as an aesthetic counter balance" to these perverse hybrids. The pieces insinuate that an arti­ficial contrivance is not a satisfactor substitute for the connective tissue which bonds humankind with nature. Nevertheless, Paul says, all creatures evolve, transmute, and change: we cannot know the future of

our species.

Neil Forrest grafts images of insects into planes of stratified colored clays, which in turn are set into large, flat serving trays. His insect images are" filtered through the beauty of decora­tive language, but, in reality, insects are often bothersome, even frightening, and certainly perceived as ugly." He finds him­self forming a new relationship to the nat­ural world as he portrays it through deco­ration."Its contemplation demonstrates the proximity of beauty to ugliness." Our var­ious readings and interpretations of nature are incongruous. Cultural production enables us to become aware of these con­tradictions. Forrest seems to assert that we need culture, perhaps we created it, to bet­ter decipher and understand our relation­ship to nature.

ted, discarded, and found elements from industrial production and nature are assembled by Chris Weaver to create diora­mas and composite figures. In the human form of Birdwatcher, a mud dauber's nest begets the form of a bird and in turn a human shoulder, a tree trunk stands in for the human trunk, and the shape of a sheet metal appendage simultaneously references a hand, a flame, a flower. Topped with a human head form, this compound human body is woven of parts from plants and animals, suggesting that we are all made from the same fabric. Yet Weaver's assemblages can also unsettle, ambiguously placing animal forms in the contexts of human detritus and scientific observation.

What do we know of flora and fauna -the animals, and our more distant relatives, the plants  - and what do they know of us? As a member of the animal kingdom, yet the only extant species, sapiens, in our genus, Homo, humans are solitary beings in our system of scientific classification. With one foot set in culture, and the other in the animal king­dom, humans occupy an enigmatic place in the world. These artists probe the finely threaded but loosely woven gossamer connecting nature and culture.

By engaging space with clay, these artists acknowledge a refer­ence to the earth's foundation, which supports many life forms. Clay is a source from which humans gain much of our economic and physical survival. Malleable in its raw state, clay responds to touch. When fired to a fluxing point, the glass-forming com­ponents of the ceramic minerals melt and create a hard, resistant record of the artist 's action. The texture and temperature of the artist's handling and intent for a work's shape and surface contain an expressive potential for the meaningful content of a piece. In the processing of the medium, as well as in its traditional forms of ritual and serv­ice such as pottery and architecture, clay is a material that can engage the body's tac­tile sense. Touching, like seeing and speaking, is a sensibility, a tool these artists use to experience and examine their world.

- Cary Esser July 30, 1999




Press Release

The H&R Block Artspace at the Kansas City Art Institute Presents Flora & Fauna, an Exhibition of Ceramic Sculpture
KCAI Website |
Wed, 2000-02-23

Engaging the medium of ceramics, the artists create “hybrid forms” which explore human relationships with nature, culture, plants and animals.  

Selected Press

Humans, Nature and Human Nature by Elisabeth Kirsch
The Kansas City Star |
Sun, 2000-04-16

Plants, animals and our perceptions of them surface in KCAI's 'Flora & Fauna'

KCAI and the Capacity for Ceramics by Elisabeth Kirsch
The Kansas City Star |
Sun, 2000-04-16

In her own work, Esser is inspired by ornament but does not copy it.

An Elegant Show of Naturalistic Clay Sculpture by Kate Hackman
Review |
Sat, 2000-04-01

"Flora and Fauna" is an elegant show of sculptural work in clay which incorporates plant and animal imagery.