If you’re in tune with beauty, then you’re able to discover it anywhere,” explains Wynwood-based ceramicist Gerbi Tsesarskaia. Having lived amongst some of the most poetic landscapes in the world–from St. Petersburg and the Baltic Sea to Siberia and Budapest, and now Miami–it’s no surprise that this Russian native’s biggest influence is nature and its relation to the human spirit. “If I see something that inspires me in the natural world, I connect with it and try to understand how it came into being,” she says. “I’m not interested in imitating nature, but rather in adding something of my own creative power to it.” Drawing on her past and present environments–think fierce winds, tumultuous waters and all-penetrating sand dunes–her work captures both heritage and humanity through the age-old art form, albeit reimagined.
Moving to Miami in 1990, Tsesarskaia decided to study ceramics at the urging of a friend. “I just fell in love with clay immediately,” she remarks. “It’s so seductive, so malleable, and it readily responds to the touch of your hands.” Today, she works almost exclusively in porcelain preferring its pure, precious, yet strong, disposition over its close relative, stoneware. Its duality–extremely strong once fired, but also incredibly fragile during the process–is provocative and attractive, it’s very existence hinging on its survival at nearly 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. “I like every quality of porcelain: its whiteness, translucency, durability and even its crankiness,” Tsesarskaia admits. “It is very hard to work with but also very rewarding.” Beginning with slabs of porcelain, she initially uses the potter’s wheel to construct her pieces, and from there, alters them using manual techniques such as her signature scratches, fissures and pinches. “I like using all hand-building techniques, especially pinching, since it is the most immediate and intimate way of manipulating materials,” says Tsesarskaia.
Working out of Miami’s historical Bakehouse Art Complex, the artist embraces her supportive and thought-provoking community, one that emanates a unique and welcoming environment. Open to the public, the space allows clients and collectors the chance to visit and purchase her dynamic pieces, which is ultimately the way she likes it. “This is actually my favorite way of selling my art,” she says. “I get to meet the people who enjoy my work, who display it, use it and buy it. It’s important to know where it goes and what has caught people’s eyes.”
Tsesarskaia’s intention is to breathe life into a man-made object, turning it into a metaphor for her own experiences. This is apparent with her newest series, Unnamed, which is comprised of translucent orbs glazed in pearly white and silver and slashed with a dark ink-like splatter. Evoking a “shelter” or “hiding place,” the spheres are tied to the idea of humans seen as luminescent beings. The focus is on balance–the pieces roll and move, and are never in one place until they’re settled in a nest made of stoneware to resemble rustic terrain. “It’s actually an analogy for humans and their higher selves,” she says. Or of Tsesarskaia, who is constantly in motion.