Michelle Erickson 2016
Thrown and hand-built wood-fired stoneware with black and white porcelain slip. Fired in collaboration with Ben Owen III.
Provoked by the heightened political environment during my residency, specifically the unjust NC law known as HB2 requiring transgender citizens to use public restrooms that correspond to their birth gender I began HB2 Squirrels. The work is inspired by the curious animal figure icons of American ceramic history made by the North Carolina Moravian Potters in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Springboarding off the historical precedence of the lead-glazed earthenware Moravian squirrel bottles and my experimental archeology in recreating the originals I began to create larger than life salt-glazed stoneware versions. Toting male positioned ‘gender’ symbols and coated in black and white porcelain slips and ‘rainbow flag’ graffiti the pair literally made from North Carolina earth protest the subject of discrimination; it’s historical legacy and the very 21st-century evolution of the struggle for equality.
The androgynous nature of the squirrel, the symbols they carry and the use of black, white and murky rainbow-colored slips mocks the requirement of racial, cultural and gender identity as a premise for discriminatory laws and social injustice. On the opposing side, the squirrels seem to bleed red white and blue from their hands grasping the gender symbols acknowledging those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice as American citizens are still not equal under the law.
“Erickson’s decidedly modern versions evolved out of her work in experimental archaeology to uncover the process used to create the originals.” —Ceramics in America, 2009.