Local Arts

This North Carolina sculpture artist’s exhibit explores the elements of mind and body

Cristina Córdova at work on the porch of her Penland, N.C., studio in August. She was working on a sculpture of her daughter that is now part of her “Cuerpo Exquisito” exhibition at Hodges Taylor gallery in Charlotte.
Cristina Córdova at work on the porch of her Penland, N.C., studio in August. She was working on a sculpture of her daughter that is now part of her “Cuerpo Exquisito” exhibition at Hodges Taylor gallery in Charlotte. Courtesy of Hodges Taylor

The “Cuerpo Exquisito” exhibition at Hodges Taylor gallery captures an artist in her prime who is eager to explore and consider how her materials and meanings coexist.

Cristina Córdova’s ceramic sculptures are on display through Nov. 29 at Hodges Taylor gallery. “Cuerpo Exquisito,” which translates to “the exquisite body,” features 11 new sculptures in a variety of sizes.

Córdova lives and works in western North Carolina. While this is her third exhibition with Hodges Taylor, gallery owner Lauren Harkey said it is the first since she joined in 2016. She said it symbolizes the “new phase of Cristina’s practice coupled with the next generation of Hodges Taylor.”

Charlotteans may also associate Córdova’s name with the Mint Museum because of her inclusion in Project Ten Ten Ten. The museum commissioned 10 craft and design artists to create works for its uptown building, which opened in 2010.

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Artist Cristina Córdova hung large photographs behind some of her full-scale ceramic sculptures on exhibit at Hodges Taylor gallery. This forces the figure into an environment and gives it context, she said. The “Cuerpo Exquisito” exhibition includes 11 new works by Córdova. Lydia Bittner-Baird Courtesy of Hodges Taylor

Sense of self

Córdova is widely recognized because of the scale of her ceramic figures and the level of precision. Her work is often contextualized with additional imagery and symbols.

She grew up in Puerto Rico and earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Puerto Rico. She was raised in the Catholic faith with a “binary sense of self,” understanding that the spiritual and biological components of oneself were in opposition.

She says life experience has taught her that “our own psyche is grounded in our body” and that the elements of mind and body are in constant synchronization. Through the gesture, posture and context of her figures she explores this connection, attempting to freeze and capture the biological response to emotional events, and the ways a body carries the memories of those experiences.

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Works on view in Cristina Córdova’s “Cuerpo Exquisito” exhibition include stylistically consistent figures in varying scales, postures and ceramic finishes. On the right in this photo are five small feminine figures that rest atop a wall of mounted ceramic rocks. Lydia Bittner-Baird Courtesy of Hodges Taylor

Body of experience

Córdova said that in her latest body of work, “everything comes under the idea of the body as a repository for experience.

“I think when dealing with figuration you often fall into the role of storytelling and narrative,” she said. While this is unavoidable, her ultimate goal was to position her figures in ways that “speak about how the body feels and witnesses information before it’s even processed.”

“I’d like to think I’m touching on the subconscious and the things that fall within that space right before we can control how we interpret or how we bring peace into our awareness,” she said.

The exhibition

Works on view in “Cuerpo Exquisito” include stylistically consistent figures in varying scales, postures and ceramic glaze finishes. Five small feminine figures rest atop wall-mounted rocks. Another wall-mounted piece is a standing nude woman at the top of a staircase that projects out from the wall as the steps descend.

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Cristina Córdova included metalwork into this ceramic figure of a woman at the top of a staircase. It’s among 11 new works she has on display at Hodges Taylor. Lydia Bittner-Baird Courtesy of Hodges Taylor

Other works include solitary heads with brightly decorated headdresses, which Córdova says “hint at the activities of thoughts or emotional frequency of an experience.”

Cabeza features a black face topped with a brightly patterned triangular headdress in the style of a child’s newspaper hat. The patterning of the headdress is colorful and active and a contrast to the dark, still face of the subject, resulting in a work that is equal parts static and dynamic.

The exhibition also features two large scale installations: sculptures of a prepubescent girl (her youngest daughter was the model) are placed in the foreground and large landscape photographs are hung behind her. This juxtaposition forces the figure into an environment and gives it context.

In combining two elements sourced from reality, both the figure and the image, she creates a fantasy and expands the possibilities of both sculpture and photograph.

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This ceramic work by Cristina Córdova features a black face topped with a brightly patterned triangular headdress in the style of a child’s newspaper hat. The patterning of the headdress is colorful and active in contrast to the dark, still face, resulting in a work that is equal parts static and dynamic. Courtesy of Hodges Taylor

Capturing the moment

Córdova says the choice to include a girl at such a specific age in these dioramas is an effort to capture the “very charged, delicate moment” in which an impressionable soul steps back and forth between the worlds of childhood and adulthood.

Some elements in the background photographs tie in experiences from her personal history. The photographs were taken near her home in the mountains, but the images have been toyed with; in some cases, she intervened in the landscape and in others the images were manipulated to include symbols and images. She invites her audiences to look for them because they are not always obvious.

Through multiple studio visits Harkey was able to “closely witness Cristina’s steadfast dedication to her craft” and wanted to use the exhibition to share Córdova’s “undeniable finely tuned skillset.”

‘The exquisite body’

What: Cristina Córdova’s “Cuerpo Exquisito”

Where: Hodges Taylor, 118 E. Kingston Ave., Charlotte

When: Now through Nov. 29

Details: hodgestaylor.com

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