Nina de Creeft Ward’s ceramic sculptures are radical because they ask us to treat works of art as if they were pets: sensitive critters that repay our care and affection in ways that make us feel more connected to our best selves, not to mention other living things.
That’s dramatically different from what’s usually expected of contemporary art — that it comment critically on pressing issues or wow audiences with spectacular theatrics or stand in as a snazzy backdrop for selfies.
De Creeft Ward’s animals do none of that. The 28 masterfully handcrafted and gorgeously glazed wild and domestic beasts that make up “Animal Ties” work their magic face to face, in engagements that may seem old-fashioned but are all the more potent for it. The Santa Barbara-based artist has transformed South Willard gallery in Chinatown into a peaceable kingdom filled with earthly delights.
Three felines, each doing double duty as a teapot, cavort on a tabletop. An ewe and a couple of rams rest on another; their realistic heads also function as teapots. The busts of three horses and six oryx stand by majestically, their graceful silhouettes, richly textured contours and lusciously glazed surfaces inviting double takes.
De Creeft Ward’s wall-mounted works are equally lovely. Eschewing the superrealism — and deathliness — of taxidermy, her miniature rams never pretend to be made of anything but clay. Each compact creature is set in its natural habitat, a corner of earth that provides all it needs.
The artist’s newest works are among the most enchanting: fawns, does, bucks and coyotes, asleep or at rest, in bookend-shaped settings that allow De Creeft Ward to strut her stuff as a colorist. Each pint-size vignette provides more respite than its modest dimensions suggest. Relaxing, and daydreaming, never felt better.
When: Wednesdays-Sundays through Feb. 10
Info: (323) 653-6153, southwillard.com
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