Inheritance weaves together the talents of April Felipe, Habiba El-Sayed and Natalia Arbelaez, whose work engages ideas of selfhood, be it constructed or obligatory. Each of theses artists use ceramics as a tool to question: who is hyper visible and who goes unseen? Whose identities are anchored and who is left with a sense of loss in search of belonging? And finally, how much power do we truly have in correcting the course of our inherited paths? Through personal narrative, they challenge us to reflect inward and explore how our complicated pasts affect our present understanding of the self.
Curated by Maya Vivas
Growing up, people begin to deal with the idea of identity, not just who we are but how we place ourselves within groups beyond our families. For me, this placing became a cultural question. As my parents were from the Caribbean, I was connected to multiple cultural groups. However having grown up here in America and not fitting the visual stereotypes of my heritage, I never felt like I truly belonged to any of those cultures. I became aware that the way I presented layers of my past could be used to validate my desired place within these groups. Reflecting on my struggle, I began to question the way we construct personal history in service to our desire for belonging. I consider the tale of The Ugly Duckling, a narrative that perpetuates visually belonging, and the reward of finding ones “true” place, in conjunction with issues of colonialism. Through the layering of materials and patterns, historical, found, and invented my work explores this narrative and the constructed nature of the past to reveal our desire for belonging.
April Felipe was born in, Queens, New York. She received her B.F.A from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University and her M.F.A in Ceramics from Ohio University. April worked at Greenwich House Pottery, taught at Ohio State University and Ohio University. In 2017 she was named one of Ceramic Monthly’s Emerging Artist. April has participated in residencies at Watershed Center for the Ceramic Arts and The Archie Bray foundation. April has set down roots in Albany, Ohio with a home studio, she currently works for the Dairy barn Arts Center.
Inspired by Islamic architecture and human vulnerability, Toronto-based ceramic artist Habiba El-Sayed uses a variety of materials, performance and temporal techniques to illustrate her concepts. Her work focuses on connecting to, exploring and interpreting aspects of her identity, particularly as a Muslim woman living in a post-9/11 world.
Habiba holds an Advanced Diploma from Sheridan College in Ceramics (2014) and a BFA in Ceramics from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (2016). Her work has been shown across North America and she is currently a resident artist at Harbourfront Center in Toronto.
I was born in Miami, Florida but shortly after my birth I immigrated to my mother’s country of Colombia, Medellin. I would return to the states at the age of four and assimilate quickly learning English and forgetting Spanish within a month. Throughout my life, I have always questioned my identity and have felt a sense of loss.
With creating work, I could fill that loss and I have been able to reconnect with my heritage. My work serves as a bridge to research my history and culture while aiming to preserve. I look to the history of Latin American and Amerindian people and work with how these identities are lost through conquest, migration, and time, gained through family, culture, exploration, and passed down through tradition and genetic memory. I use these influences to contribute to a contemporary dialogue while simultaneously continuing the work of my ancestors. There has been so much loss and stigma of these communities that it is important to me that my work celebrates and honors them.
Natalia Arbelaez is a Colombian American artist, born and raised in Miami, Florida to immigrant parents. She received her B.F.A. from Florida International University and her M.F.A. from The Ohio State University, where she received an Enrichment Fellowship. She completed a yearlong residency at the Clay Art Center; Port Chester, New York as a Barbara Rittenberg Fellow and was awarded the 2016 Inaugural Artaxis Fellowship that funded a residency to the Watershed in Newcastle, Maine. Her work has been exhibited nationally, in museums, galleries, and included in various collections such as the Everson Museum and The Frederik Meijer Gardens. She has been recognized by the National Council on Education for Ceramic Arts as a 2018 Emerging Artist in the field. Natalia is currently a resident artist at the Harvard Ceramics Program, Office of the Arts at Harvard University where she is researching pre-Columbian art and histories.