Joan Bankemper




Courtesy of the artist and Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York, NY
With ceramic teapots, sunflowers, bread plates, and bunnies piled up in masses of buoyant optimism, Joan Bankemper transforms traditionally modest tableware into miniature architectural follies. Each of her sculptures is created with hundreds of ceramics and molds she has collected. Bankemper’s work is influenced by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926), whose ceramicencrusted church, the Sagrada Família, in Barcelona, is one of the most striking monuments conceived in the late 19th century.

Capturing the exuberant colors and forms of the natural world, Bankemper crams a whole garden into a teapot. In works like Splitting Orange Bee Mandala, the artist uses the teapot, symbol of domestic comforts and nourishment, as the base of her work with the most fantastical creativity rising from it—the lid of domesticity is literally blown off. In Hindu and Buddhist symbolism, a “mandala” is a geometric figure representing the universe. For the hard-working bee, these flowers, to which it travels to fertilize and receive food, represent the outer limits of the universe.

Victorian women embraced china painting as a means of economic support and to express their talent and good taste. Here, the artist has taken the eclectic aesthetic of Victorian ceramics to an artistic extreme. In Suzanna’s Garden of Earthly Delights, she makes reference to Hieronymus Bosch’s Renaissance triptych that highlights the most bizarre indulgences of the flesh. Her works are like an acid trip of floral wonderland—the wilder side of every “domestic goddess.”