Ephemeral, by Sara Catapano and Hannah Pierce, at BoxHeart Gallery explores life and death through clay | Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Ephemeral, by Sara Catapano and Hannah Pierce, at BoxHeart Gallery explores life and death through clay

“They are both making comments on society in their own way.”

Sara Catapano, “Young Gun,” (stoneware, glaze, underglaze) - PHOTO COURTESY OF BOXHEART GALLERY
Photo courtesy of BoxHeart Gallery
Sara Catapano, “Young Gun,” (stoneware, glaze, underglaze)

There are many balancing acts at play in the two-person show Ephemeral, by Sara Catapano and Hannah Pierce. 

Growth and decay, nature versus man, vice and virtue, death and birth. Even physically, Catapano’s and Pierce’s sculptures seem to twist and pull apart from each other in complicated compositions. It is this tension that unites the two artists, and transforms the gallery into a dystopian landscape.

Catapano’s sculptures appear to be simultaneously dying and growing at the same time, not unlike the ways a virus spreads.

“I’m really fascinated with the gestation process of animals and plants, but what’s even more so, or equally as fascinating, is watching these seemingly important entities degrade and rot back into nothingness,” says Catapano. “It’s a cyclical system of the earth that I think humans have a hard time seeing themselves in the process, but we’re just a step in the cycle, too.”

Finding the humanity in Catapano’s biomorphic sculptures isn’t hard when you consider the female form. Works like “Young Gun” and “Unrequited” feel sensual, even yonic in the way they swell and fold in on themselves, and are prime examples of the level of craft and detail Catapano is operating at in her practice. 

Pierce also speaks to the human condition, if not more directly. Figures are caught in labyrinths of dilapidated buildings, and struggle with addictions and unhealthy relationships. Coming from a printmaking and illustration background, her style gives the work a fairytale, moral-of-the-story feel. By constructing not just the figures, but also the environments they dwell in, Pierce can explore themes more easily accessible in a 3-D medium.

“In a metaphorical sense, [the work] is about how we build walls around ourselves to protect us from one another, and exploring what shelter means in a more physical sense,” says Pierce.

Ephemeral came together organically, says Nicole Capozzi, owner and director of Bloomfield’s BoxHeart Gallery. Pierce and Catapano are the only third-year ceramic MFA students in their graduating class at Edinboro University, and it was the two who reached out to Capozzi.

“They are both making comments on society in their own way,” says Capozzi.

For as macabre as Ephemeral is, there is an unmistakable humor found in Catapano’s and Pierce’s works too. 

The way Catapano’s sculptures awkwardly perch on too-small pedestals and spill over shelves points to the absurd idea that we can control nature or tame it. “You can learn a lot of things from the flowers,” sing the pansies in Alice in Wonderland, and so can we from Catapano’s work.

Pierce’s pop-surrealist figures wrestle with addiction, anxiety and abandonment, but sprinkled in between these vignettes are dreamy balloons and chewing-gum bubbles glazed in pinks and reds, blown tongue in cheek. 

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