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'Like A Living Creature': Dorina Molnar's Ceramics

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“I really feel like the land and the sky pull me out to the land,” Dorina Molnar of Boxborough told me the other day. “That’s why I live in the forest actually.”

Molnar has long made her living doing product design. She says she studied graphics and industrial design in her native Budapest, Hungary, before designing products in Italy for five years and then in the Concord area, where she moved 13 years ago.

But in her handmade ceramics, on view in her exhibition “Seeds from impermanence” at Vessels Gallery (450 Harrison Ave., Boston, through June 2), what you sense is the design of nature—the way shells and rocks and creatures form in the wild.

Dorina Molnar's ceramics installation at Vessels Gallery resembles the sea floor. (Courtesy of the gallery)
Dorina Molnar's ceramics installation at Vessels Gallery resembles the sea floor. (Courtesy of the gallery)

The centerpiece of her show is a group of small white and gray porcelains and rust brown clay sculptures arrayed across a flat “landscape” of cracked white porcelain atop a wide table. It gives the arresting impression of coral and sea anemones, of shells and grasses living on a sea floor.

Molnar names her designs by their shapes and structures. “Prickles” are balls of spines that look like anemones or rows of curving, pointy rods that resemble grass. She builds up “Tendrils,” spaghetti-like porcelain tubes, into formations resembling baskets, birds’ nests, or little canoes. “Funnels,” round hollow cones shaped like chocolate kisses, might suggest shells. Sand-dollar-like “flats” are stacked up into little towers that bring to mind wiggly undersea plants.

Dorina Molnar's “Prickles” are balls of spines that look like anemones. (Courtesy of the gallery)
Dorina Molnar's “Prickles” are balls of spines that look like anemones. (Courtesy of the gallery)

Clearly Molnar has nature in mind when she begins, but it also comes from her method of constructing by making lots of small pieces that she assembles into larger formations.

“I like the repetition,” she says. “I like geometric shapes or organic shapes. My mind likes to repeat until it’s truly an organic form like a living creature.”

She typically fires her ceramics twice in a kiln to harden them. Then she likes to photograph them outdoors, reflected in still water, on sandy beaches, in rushing water, among ice and snow.

Molnar speaks of the ancient drive to nurture life. “I feel the whole cycle of giving life and letting it go,” she says. “I feel this primitive force in me, to create these structures to survive. … They grow and I can touch them. Then they go away. I like to be part of this transformation.”

Dorina Molnar's sand-dollar-like “flats” are stacked up into little towers that bring to mind wiggly undersea plants. (Courtesy of the gallery)
Dorina Molnar's sand-dollar-like “flats” are stacked up into little towers that bring to mind wiggly undersea plants. (Courtesy of the gallery)

This article was originally published on May 28, 2013.

This program aired on May 28, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Greg Cook Twitter Arts Reporter
Greg Cook was an arts reporter and critic for WBUR's The ARTery.

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