Sculptor Julia Kunin by Maria Elena González

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Sculptor Julia Kunin by Maria Elena González

Julia Kunin’s work has developed in many ways since I first encountered it in the early 90’s. Her "Red Suede Saddles" from 1993, is probably the piece that most people associate with Julia. The saddles are actual size, and the color and shape relate to or conjure female genitalia in a most sensual way. The format, an installation of floating objects that one would like to mount, as suede being so seductive and that ultimate color of sex, RED.

It is remarkable to see the development of how the scale and the format have changed. Her recent work, where the sculptures are on pedestals, the material is porcelain, the scale is small, and the imagery is of animals, one wonders what more can be said or what can be different in this most traditional of mediums. In one word, intimacy. The new work can be internal organs or glimpses of a miniaturized place where pleasurable activities take place.


Kunin’s recent sculptures, glazed porcelain all done in 2007, are composed of elements cast from sea creatures, insects, and others forms from the natural world. The work is inspired by the ceramics of the French 16th c artist, Bernard Palissy, who made platters resembling ponds, using direct casts of animals and plants. Julia takes animals including turtles, flies, and snails, of varying sizes, some of them quiet small, and piles them up into phallic mounds to arrive at baroque structures that glimmer and ooze with different hues and saturation.


Her manner of orchestrating shapes and forms into objects that seem precious and ornate, pulls the viewer in for closer inspection. At this point one is caught, and you start savoring the moment of repulsion and delight. “Smoke,” a column like swirl about 32 inches tall, made up of hundreds of miniature Black-Eyed Susan flowers in a rich black glaze, can be either a barnacled ice cream cone, or the frozen product of a fireplace, as its namesake. As her press release states, “the ornamental quality of Kunin’s ceramic work belie the fact that they address serious ideas about beauty and decay, sensuality, nature and death.”

—by Maria Elena González / photos by Cora Lambert