Tell It By Heart

Coille Hooven’s domestic centered narrative sculptures
New York’s The Museum of Arts and Design  presents Coille Hooven: Tell It By Heart, the artist’s first-ever solo museum exhibition in New York. The exhibition spans more than 30 years of Hooven’s 50-year career working in porcelain that explores domestic-centered narratives. One of the first ceramists to bring feminist content to clay, Hooven uses porcelain to honor the history of women’s work, confront gender inequality, and depict the pleasure, fears, and failures of partnering and parenting.
Hooven’s sculptures range from teapots and vessels to figurative busts and dioramas that eresonate with familiarity despite an undisguised use of the fantastical. Developing her own vocabulary of archetypes, she regularly revisits certain creatures and forms: aprons, pillows, shoes, and pies, as well as a wide cast of characters that includes mermaids, fish, snakes, and anthropomorphic beasts that appear part-dog, part-horse, and part-human. Inspired by Jungian psychology, Hooven’s sculptures conjure a vision of the unconscious—both the joy and buoyancy of dreams, as well as the discomfort and despair of anxiety and doubt.
“For Coille, the raw clay becomes a manifestation of the unconscious out of which she coaxes characters, objects, and vignettes with a tender urgency,” said MAD's William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator Shannon R. Stratton. “Mining fairy tales, fables, myths, and religious parables, Hooven often takes universal symbols—everything from Eve to a security pillow—and recasts them into a personal and feminist narrative. Coille’s delicate, diminutive work boldly embraces a subject and style historically marginalized in art for being too personal, trivial, or even vulgar.”
Hooven studied at the University of Illinois under David Shaner and graduated in 1962. That same year, at the age of 23, Hooven submitted a piece to the Museum of Arts and Design (then the Museum of Contemporary Crafts) for the Young Americansexhibition. From there, she built up the ceramics program at the Maryland Institute College of Art before moving to Berkeley, California, with her two small children. At the time, Berkeley was the stronghold for experimental work in clay, and Hooven joined an artistic community that included Peter Voulkos and Robert Arneson. Unlike many of her peers, Hooven worked independently of academia and made a maverick career in California as both a studio potter, designing and making functional wares, and an artist working in porcelain sculpture to create the figurative work on display in Coille Hooven: Tell It By Heart. In 1979, Hooven became the second woman to be in residence at the Kohler Co. plant in Kohler, Wisconsin, as part of its renowned Arts/Industry residency program.
Coille Hooven: Tell It By Heart will run through February 5, 2017. For more information, visit
Press materials edited by Rebeca Schiller


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