The stoneware sculptures of Sylvia Iskander evoke forgotten memories through ties to both the past and the present. Her clay and porcelain figurative sculptures, now on exhibition at Skoto Gallery in Chelsea, express monumentality and timelessness, finding echoes in human representation from time immemorial.
Myth, history, environmentalism, and feminism all strike harmonic chords in the earthy abstract figural pieces which convey many and multi-layered messages. As with all sophisticated artwork, her sculptures are built not only of material, but of meaning, as well. The choice of clay, the earth’s own skin (from the Latin “terra-cotta”) imparts a feeling of timelessness, indeed, the pieces have an ancient, archeological feel to them. But they are also timely, whispering of feminism and our ties to and responsibility for earth, both very real and immediate issues of the moment.
Iskander’s work is reminiscent of the masterful ceramics of Peter Voulkos, in the way they embrace and celebrate the essence of the medium, while also bringing to mind Stephen de Staebler’s monumental clay forms, with their ties to historical and sacred pieces from Egypt and Mediterranean sites. In fact, Sylvia Iskander was born in Egypt--her husband is an Egyptologist, and she, herself, has been involved with archeological digs.
Figures as fragmented parts of a whole have been often presented in modern art, drawing on both the remains of early work found scattered in pieces, and also on the modern sense of mankind’s division of the self. Such references are to be found in Rodin, Henry Moore and Giacommetti, and more recently in the headless sculptures of Magdalena Abakanowicz. Iskander adds her own voice to this trend, but rather than focusing on the poignant, tragic or troubled, her sculptures express a joyful feminism and enduring, even eternal hopefulness.
Sylvia Iskander’s dynamic, yet ancient totemic figures, bearing silent witness to the passage of time, incorporate mythology, history, and our connection to the earth as mother, nurturer, provider, and muse. In them, we find a mystical connection to material and to themes and forms that evoke the distant past and yet are innovative, intuitive and wholly original works of great beauty, authenticity and originality.