The human figure has been a central subject throughout ceramicist Sally Michener’s career. Some of her collections focus on the entire figure or on particular body parts while others, in the absence of the figure, use columns and scale to make the viewer more aware of how their own bodies occupy space. Her most recent series, ten hand-built ceramic sculptures clad in mosaic of ceramic and glass, playfully explores a new subject: dogs. Dogs have been an important part of Michener’s life and her current companion Diego, a rescued Bichon Frise, largely inspired this series.
Michener creates installations wherein her work significantly alters the environment and visitors’ relationship to the space; in Sit . Stay . Speak, a large u-shaped table installation occupies the gallery, positioning the eye-line of the dogs on the same level as the viewers’. The height of the table and the configuration of the gallery prompt viewers to consider the subject matter in a new way, and encourages movement by inviting them to explore each sculpture while circling the installation. Her nuanced stylization and use of materials and colour, captures the playful energy and dynamism of her subject matter. Each sculpture has a unique colour scheme made of a complex combination of glass tiles, broken china, and found ceramics. These materials entice the viewer to touch the work: to pet it as they might pet a dog, despite the contrast between the sculptures’ textures and the animal that inspired them. Like much of Michener’s previous work, this series playfully subverts our expectations with a refreshing sense of humour. In her almost 50-year career, Michener has exhibited widely in Canada and abroad and has participated in over 100 group and 17 solo exhibitions. She was a member of the ceramics faculty at Emily Carr University of Art + Design from 1973-1998. Her work can be found in numerous public collections in Canada, the United States, China, Japan and Mexico. She is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and currently lives in West Vancouver.