“Sugar Skull”, a 2012 creation by Wendy Wallin Malinow is one of the teapots on view at Mobilia Gallery’s new show, “The Teapot Redefined 2012”. While Malinow’s work is at times quite whimsical, her fascination with the macabre is long standing.
In terms of a structural challenge, Mobilia’s teapot show provided Malinow the opportunity to experiment with larger scale hollow form. However, the actual manifestation as a skull flows naturally out of the totality of Malinow’s work.
“I decided upon fabricating a hollow skull. The “sugar” idea came from traditional Mexican “Day of the Dead” sugar skulls in combination with the idea that one might have a “lump or two” with their tea. The surface is densely encrusted with faintly aquatic themes and what also what might happen at a microscopic level with fermentation and decay processes.”
Malinow’s “osteo” like surfaces and forms also suggest bleached coral, which generally indicates a downward spiral in the health of a coral reef. Both evocations enhance the dense visual and tactile quality of her skull teapot. Within the traditions of Day of the Dead, sugar skulls in various manifestations serve both as references and enticements for the returning spirits of lost loved ones, as well as tasty treats for children and others. The jaw structure that seems to slightly smile is consistent with many of the skulls created for a holiday that commemorates the dead with food, family and celebration. Malinow’s overlay of the sugar skull tradition with other cultural ties to tea makes for wry humor through her fusion of the exuberance of the South/Central American holiday with the far more restrained emotions of a proper English tea and the choreography of a Japanese tea ceremony.
Skulls, bones, teeth and the other detritus of life are a frequent motif for Malinow. More often than not, the sweetness of nature and life is revealed along with the darker underside of existence: grass grows above tangles of roots and worms, organic pods contain skulls, candy promotes tooth decay, or mermaids wear severed fish heads. Malinow is currently involved with a personal artistic challenge having to do with a “bone a day” and she does not mean a complaint.
Mobilia’s “Teapot Redefined 2012” will be presented in two parts. Part I: June 1-June 30 and Part II: October 2- 31 Cambridge, MA
photo: Courtney Frisse