Tansey Contemporary’s show “Homebodies: Artifacts” features super heroes and action-type figures who either carry around or actually are their own houses.
These whimsical and fascinating ceramic sculptures are created by award-winning artist Calvin Ma, a graduate of San Francisco State University who earned a master’s degree in sculpture at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University.
“My work focuses on my struggles with social anxieties, so when I start a piece, I always have an experience or emotion that I want to communicate,” Ma explains via email. “With that in mind, this Homebody character I created is used to act out that experience or emotion, usually by having it interact with something else, much like when I was a kid, playing with my action figures and creating stories.”
After Ma has worked out an idea in his head, he casts his Homebody character from plaster molds with ceramic casting slip. He’s made molds for every part of the body, including the head, chimney, torso, limbs, hands and shoes.
The different body parts are assembled while the clay is flexible enough to work with. Colors are added by using underglazes and a wash that’s fired in a kiln two separate times to achieve an old and dilapidated effect. “Some parts are assembled after firing with an epoxy adhesive because they may have been too delicate to fire together in the kiln,” Ma adds.
Ma enjoys injecting pop culture references in some of his work. One piece in the show, “All work and no play makes Calvin a dull boy,” is loosely modeled after the typewriter from the movie “The Shining.”
“I see myself trapped in my own thoughts about social anxieties, somewhat like the movie’s character being trapped in his own thoughts with the Overlook Hotel, going a little stir crazy,” Ma says.
One of Ma’s favorite pieces is titled “Take a Load Off” and features a Homebody sitting in an Eames lounge chair. “After an art opening or social gathering, I always imagine myself going home and melting into one of these plush leather chairs,” he says. “Extroverts thrive on social events, while it can be really draining for introverts like myself. Don’t get me wrong. I love to meet new people. I’m just not great at it.”