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Outer Cape Artists

short essays on Outer Cape artists by Maura Coughlin

Life-Sized: Amy Kandall 

JULY 11, 2013

Amy Kandall’s most recent ceramic sculptures are roughly life-sized. Standing in their presence, we understand their scale through that of our own bodies; this uncanny relationship was explored by the Surrealists’ fascination with mannequins, and doubles. Each figure is made of three parts both hand-built and wheel-thrown.  As bodies made of modular forms, more recent associations also abound: from the domestic robots of the Jetson’s and the Stepford Wives to ever-transforming cybernetic superheroes.

Although they are a dramatic departure in scale from her earlier ceramic sculptures, in these large female forms, she continues to explore tensions of figural form and surface. Flesh and cloth are conflated and confused.  The surface is cut through, peeled back and exposed.  These openings and cuts in the surface are spaces of absence and access, providing for flow through and from the sculpture. Surfaces are worked, abraded or obsessively layered with texture, glaze, or paint.  A blue diva’s carapace is suggestive, all at once, of a water tower, a robin’s egg or a coveted Tiffany jewel box.


The result of research into totemic world cultures, and the generative, creative forces attributed to female deities, these columnar caryatids are formed of mute matter that is activated by our associative mediation upon them. Many have closed eyes, turning inward on their potential, not yet revealing themselves to our gaze.  Like African Power figures (Nkisi) that draw their force from materials contained in their abdomens, and that are empowered by nails driven into their wooden bodies, these female warrior figures seem almost brought to life, suspended at a moment just before awakening to sentient presence.

An exhibition of this new work opens July 12, 2013 at the Esmond-Wright Gallery in Provincetown.

Outer Cape Artists

short essays on Outer Cape artists by Maura Coughlin

Amy Kandall: Warrior Princesses

JULY 26, 2011

Amy Kandall’s new series of ceramic warrior princesses invite their viewers to embrace a range of contradictions. Their surfaces are at once parched dry and lusciously glazed, austere and extravagant, ugly and gorgeous, stripped down and excessive. Put into play (and sometimes opposition) is text and image, surface animation and sculptural depth, color and line. Borrowing at will from her background in painting, printmaking and clothing design, Kandall mixes metaphors and allusions while binding color to form. In their very materiality, these sculptures are made of clay that has been impregnated with color, stamped with pattern or abraded and stressed. Kandall fearlessly weaves together porcelain and brown clay, well aware of the visceral associations conjured by muddying or fusing her ceramic references. Color, in these works, is not mere surface: it is of the very fabric of the clay. Erasing boundaries or associations of the refined and the earth-bound, the clay becomes a fabric that is woven, hung and folded about these forms. As it strengthens, binds, conceals and reveals the female figures within its drapery, it is insistently sculptural. Clay is metal, cloth, hair skin; clothing is made of fictive brocade, silk or chain mail armor; clay reads as alternately soft and draping or hard and encasing.

Both archetype and architecture, the female form is encased in clothing, being at once in a tower and the tower itself, both clothed and contained in these fantastic costumes, as if  decorated and armed for an unnamed ritual. Formal regalia seemingly empowers the wearer: supports her yet ensnares her, tells her how to behave and silences her critics. The female body is returned to repeatedly in this work—the body as the place of memory, the embodiment of memory, and as the surface upon which life’s stories are inscribed. These elongated female forms evoke ancient feminine archetypes—like the Minoan Snake Goddess or Aztec devouring mothers. At the same time, their battle gear, their transformative armor, their mutations and amputations evoke the post-apocalyptic landscape of Mad Max. Kandall’s armored warrior princesses, evil queens, mother warriors, and wounded heroines tell stories, stories written on their bodies.


Movers, Shakers, and Makers

A Portrait Project by Amy Kandall

August 24–September 4, 2021

Opening Reception: Friday, August 27, 5-7 PM

The Commons, 46 Bradford Street, Provincetown


Provincetown, MA – Truro-based artist Amy Kandall’s new exhibit, Movers, Shakers, and Makers, will be open to the public at The Commons in Provincetown from August 24–September 4, 2021, with an opening reception on Friday, August 27. The exhibition features approximately thirty large-scale portraits of well-loved and sometimes well-known Outer Cape community members, mostly posed in pairs of friends or family. Each work is 4 by 4 feet and each subject life-size or larger, which, together with the thick strokes of brightly colored oil, brings the work and personalities vividly to life. The subjects include artists, writers, gallerists, chefs, elected officials, and other creative contributors, including Berta Walker, Robert Henry, Ryan Landry, John Dowd, Chris McCarthy, Jim Zimmerman, Marian Roth, Mary D’Angelis, Zach Luster, and Edwidge Yingling, among many more.


Of the portraits, which share the spontaneity and warmth of portraits of friends by Alice Neel or, more recently, Angela Dufresne, Kandall observes, “Most of my portraits are of pairs: couples, friends, family, work partners. I am interested in what happens when you paint people in relation to each other, when you try to capture their contrasting energies and the story of their connection, the way they look at one another, the dance of their gestures.”


Kandall is known on social media as “the fast painter,” not only because her portrait sessions are 3 hours long and done every other day but because they are time-lapse video-taped for online viewing. “Three hours is the strangely perfect amount of time to make a portrait,” Kandall says. “Whatever happens in those three hours remains on the canvas as it is. Complete. A capture not only of the sitters but also the space we shared.”


This series began in June, at a time when Covid vaccinations were finally allowing people to gather again. Kandall invited subjects to her studio, a small outbuilding in her Truro yard, sat them on a velvet couch, and, while painting, talked with them about their experiences in and views about the Outer Cape. Topics ran from climate change to housing to nature and love. Documenting not only the people of our community, but also this historical moment in time as we emerge from isolation into togetherness after a global pandemic, this series is a part of a larger living history project. The conversations have been recorded and will be edited and published together with the portraits in the coming year.


Movers, Shakers, and Makers is not over yet. The project is being enthusiastically embraced by the Provincetown and Outer Cape community, with whose participation it continues to grow.

The public is invited to view the exhibit at The Commons, Provincetown’s community workspace: August 24–September 4, 2021, Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm, and Saturday and Sunday, 10am-2pm. There will be an opening reception on Friday, August 27, from 5-7pm. Please wear your mask inside the building. Work is available for purchase through the artist.


About Amy Kandall
Amy Kandall’s artistic work in ceramics, collage, painting, and many other media spans four decades. She has exhibited her paintings and ceramic sculptures in galleries and museums across the country. She has also been teaching art for 25 years, working with teenagers in Provincetown, Dennis, Yarmouth, and at Nauset Regional High School. She has been represented by galleries including DNA, Cherry Stone, The Schoolhouse, East End, Esmond Wright, Patty Deluca and currently represents her own work out of Ouroboros Gallery in Truro.


About The Commons

The Commons is a collaborative workspace for artists and small businesses, serving the Cape and Islands all year long. As a school and community center, 46 Bradford Street, has been a Provincetown asset for more than a century. The Commons continues that tradition as a year-round coworking space for creative individuals, artists, entrepreneurs, and start-up businesses—as well as being a space for education and community gatherings.

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