Natalie Ball in Artsy's "These 20 Female Artists Are Pushing Sculpture Forward"

By Tess Thackara

Aug. 4, 2018

Sculpture was once considered the domain of ambitious male artists, a medium as challenging in its physicality as it was limitless in scope. But for several decades, artists from Eva Hesse and Senga Nengudi to Phyllida Barlow and Ursula von Rydingsvard have carved a place for women working in contemporary sculpture. And in 2018, it’s arguably female artists who are creating some of the most interesting, challenging, and ambitious forms—freely taking the body apart, prodding taboos, and embracing the grotesque. The eclectic group of 20 international sculptors highlighted here ranges from emerging to mid-career talents. What connections can we draw between them? There’s the extraordinary influence of Louise Bourgeois, for one—nearly half of these artists cited the late artist as one of their icons. Doris Salcedo looms large, too.

Meanwhile, many of these practices underscore the fact that clay has been comfortably absorbed into the artist’s toolbox, moving well beyond the realm of vessels to become a commonplace material—as capable as steel, wood, resin, and other materials in pushing boundaries and helping us to see the world anew. Together, these artists are helping to define, question, and evolve the future of their medium.

Natalie Ball

B. 1980, United States. Lives and works in Chiloquin, Oregon.

Natalie Ball conceives of her sculptures—or “power objects,” as she calls them—as a way to “occupy, challenge, and disrupt.” Composed of materials like animal remains, toys, old clothes, and synthetic hair, they offer sometimes humorous alternatives to received narratives and dominant American identities.

Her Pussy Hat (2018), rather than the omnipresent pink accessory that emerged with the Women’s March in 2017, is a patchwork hybrid made from leather boxing gloves, abalone shells, human hair, balaclavas, and Hudson’s Bay Co. Trade Blanket toilet paper rolls. A product of materials that carry particular significance for Native American peoples, Ball’s hat proposes a complex, layered, and challenging counterpart to a garment that comes loaded with the trappings of white female identity in America. (Ball hails from the Modoc and Klamath tribe of Oregon.) Her 2017 Thrillerjacket is a vintage red garment recalling Michael Jackson’s iconic look that she has adapted to resemble something closer to an indigenous textile, barbed with porcupine quills. 


Ball, who also works in performance, currently has an exhibition at the Museum of Northwest Art in Washington, with additional shows at the Institute of Modern Art in Brisbane, Australia, and Seattle’s Method gallery on the horizon.
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