Jade is doing yoga in her underwear when Viva and I walk into her winter rental apartment up at the craft school.
She blushes, stretches out of upward facing dog pose, and stands upright. Her body is perfectly symmetrical and fit, curving out of her underwear in a magazine-perfect manner. Women who have the body type to wear the presently en vogue boy-cut underwear bottoms amaze me, and Jade is one of them. Standing in mountain pose, her knees touch and she is elegantly bow-legged. Her legs are carved like a runner’s; long, slender, capable. Her hipbones jut out of the top of her underwear in a somehow healthy way. This is countered by the slightest curve of her left butt-cheek, which pokes out from her underwear. She is not overly thin, really, more like just right. Her bra is sporty and black with cookie cutter trim and made of tight elastic. She raises her long arms above her shoulders, then parallels them along her head, straight as an arrow. Her straight brown hair falls in front of her eyes, momentarily lending fullness to her quite square, pronounced forehead and jaw line. This is the second time I have meter her, the first being at Shady’s Café.
It was difficult, of course, not to notice any of this.
The apartment is all one room, including the kitchen.
It is early afternoon and I have just dropped by to pick up the latest issue of Sculpture magazine that Viva tracked down for me. I happen to have immaculate timing because she is just getting ready to leave the studio for lunch when I find her, so we grab a few things and walk over together. That’s where we find Jade, whose own apartment is too narrow for yoga.
Viva cooks while Jade and I discuss the nature of clay as craft, versus clay as sculpture. My current task is to persuade the editors of Sculpture that clay can be sculpture, and I have the artist to prove it. Last night Ceramics Art and Perception offered to buy the essay I wrote on Cristina Cordova so this has me soaring and I am determined to get LC a spot in Sculpture.
“Can you eat celery? Tofu? Chicken broth?” Viva questions, peering at me with her wide eyes from underneath a hand-crocheted brown and pink wool hat. I nod yes, and hear the sizzling of onions, smell the saltiness of boullion, taste the sweetness in her voice. She is unfailing in her consideration of others.
“It’s problematic,” Jade says, settling into a cross-legged position on her mat. “You see, the lines that made clay become sculpture were so tied to clay as craft, that the objects are inherently laden with pottery.” When she talks she moves her eyes to some distant spot on the wall, but she always looks right at me as her sentences end. Maintaining her posture, she adds one more thought: “Clay can’t be sculpture for three reasons. First, clay can break too easily. Second, clay sculptors will always be associated with potters and craft because they all hang out together. They need the same equipment so they’re close and they constantly influence each other. Third, clay sculptors get critiqued by potters – because they are in abundance and like the rest of the art world, they have opinions.”
“Excuse me while I take notes,” I say, foraging through a pile on top of Viva’s dresser for a pen. “Ok, so who do I need to dig my feet into? Who defies these unwritten rules and gets away with clay as sculpture?”
Without hesitation, Jade replies: “The Nancy Hoffman Gallery –“
“Yes, that’s where Viola Frey’s work is. LC worked with Viola, now you’re on to something,” Viva adds while washing the kale.
“And Elizabeth King, Jeff Koons, Justin Novak. Oh and of course, the man who started it all in the twentieth century, Peter Voulkos from CCAC.”
Jade, it turns out, is a wealth of information. “I’m a New York artist,” she complains. “That’s why I’ve been trained to criticize from a certain perspective. Sometimes I miss being able to look at art like I did when I was 17,” she sighs. I guess that she is probably my age now, in her late twenties.
“Yeah, you mean like before you were bombarded in grad school?” Viva says, now adding miso and tofu to the fragrant broth in the pot. There is a thick strip of hair that darts out from her hat, cutting across her forehead and framing her face with a bold, wavy line. Her t-shirt is faded black with cut-off sleeves and a looping neck and appears a little off shoulder having been under winter layers most of the day. “The thing about craft is that it’s coming back. People are getting tired of everything looking perfect. It’s all coming full circle. When the Industrial Revolution hit, people wanted anything that looked factory perfect. Now we’re hitting the down slope of that sterility and people want uniqueness.”
“But this time for different reasons,” I squeeze out while scribbling sentences in my notebook.
“I believe in the next craft revival!” Jade pronounces, slipping out of lotus pose and sliding astonishingly into a headstand. “The elements are there already, it’s just less hippy-ish.” Her face turns beat red and her voice is hoarse. “It’s more post-modern. People are making lower wages. There are folk trends in indy music.”
“There is a need for genuiness,” I add.
Our heady conversation drifts to the food as Viva presents us with three colorful bowls of soup in equally colorful ceramic bowls. The broth is rich but the onion, kale, cabbage, and celery are not overcooked so there is a medley of taste in the soup. White cubes of tofu bob up and down in the brown-purple broth and steam curls around my face as I take a sip.
I do the dishes and we dash out the door in the direction of the Small Metals studio. There resides the sole espresso machine in campus, which some artist has set up for public use in lieu of the coffeehouse (which re-opens in 14 days!) I work at. I find out that Viva can foam soy milk and I enjoy a cappuccino for the first time in months.
“Come to the cheese party we’re having tonight. We’re not eating dinner, we’re just eating cheese,” she says.
“Yeah, I can be the hostesses’ worst nightmare – the lactose intolerant guest showing up unannounced at a cheese party.” We laugh.
“No, you wouldn’t eat. You could just write about the whole thing.”
“Yeah, I could,” I smile—
—knowing that I won’t go, knowing that there is already so much wealth in the day to write about, closing my eyes for a moment and Click, taking a picture of our lunch so that I may pull it out later, sitting at my desk near the woodstove, wall of Black Mountains to the west, icy flow of river to the east, and churn the craft of writing into a sculpture of my day.