EM KETTNER (b. 1988, Melrose Park, PA) received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and has worked there as a lecturer in the Painting & Drawing, Contemporary Practices, and Liberal Arts departments. She currently teaches Ceramics and Fibers at NIAD Art Center for artists with disabilities. Kettner weaves, writes, and cooks clay out in El Cerrito, California.
My ceramic-textile works celebrate disabled bodies and represent members of my community as funny, resilient, and desirable. I’m thinking about how costumes can both reinforce and challenge origin stories that equate certain bodies with beasts or mythical creatures. In my recent series, human and animal features fuse, and feats of mystics and prophets are recast as sideshow attractions. The miniature scale and use of materials historically associated with domestic crafts merge the functional with the so-called functionless—a nod to the ways physical disabilities have been defined against classical ideals. I sculpt the hybrid bodies so that limbs intertwine and meld in gestures both erotic and assistive. Each ceramic form then acts as a tiny tapestry loom or shaped core for a woven basket. The resulting sculptures, held together and decorated by their fiber bindings, promote symbiotic relationships and body modification as ways of amplifying our attraction to and fetishization of deformity.