Bronze, Silk, Pine, Cherry: A Year Without a Kiln Forced Simone Bodmer-Turner to Reconsider Her Materials Palette

What does an artist do when they don’t have access to the tools their work requires? The ceramicist Simone Bodmer-Turner — celebrated for her abstract stoneware vessels and sculptures in shades of soft white or matte black — beautifully answers that question this month at Manhattan’s Emma Scully Gallery with her show of furniture and functional objects, A Year Without a Kiln. In 2023, Bodmer-Turner packed up her work and life in Brooklyn and moved to rural Massachusetts. She didn’t have a kiln during this period, a lack that turned into a chance to explore a different approach, to translate her ceramic skills and concerns — notions of volume, curvature, fluidity, and biomorphic forms — to other mediums. “I’ve been dreaming of a moment when I had time to experiment with the materials that make up this show: bronze, wood, lacquer, silk. That moment arrived as soon as I found distance between myself and my usual ways of working,” she says.

It’s not Bodmer-Turner’s first time blurring the line between art and design; her swooping, cantilevered ceramic Chair I and Chair II, among others, are as usable as they are visually and spatially compelling. But this work is perhaps the most personal for Bodmer-Turner, a reflection of the changes she’s experienced in the past year or so. At the heart of this show is the idea of home — not only putting down roots in a new location and settling in, but how that allows for generation and creativity. How a place influences art and how art influences a place. The shapes and forms of these pieces nod to the work of Alexander Calder and Diego Giacometti, both of whom had strong ties to Paris, a city that has influenced Bodmer-Turner artistically as well. In a kind of ongoing conversation, Bodmer-Turner has introduced their language into pieces that inhabit and fit in a post-and-beam, New England farmhouse-style atmosphere. So that “Paris, and this ongoing inspiration, gets to live with me at all times,” she says.

Furthering the notion of home, the works at Emma Scully are set amidst living room staples like a sofa, coffee table, and sideboard-shaped pedestals, along with antique objects that served as inspiration in the bronze casting process. And like a thoughtful, welcoming interior, the details here are varied but all tie together. Bodmer-Turner collaborated with metalworkers at Chicago’s West Supply to produce her textured bronze lighting, cast from plaster and clay models. Smaller pieces, like a polished bronze bowl and andirons, were produced with a Massachusetts-based foundry. The silk of the minimal, angular lamp shades is repeated in the silk-wrapped steel standing screen, which draws on Isamu Noguchi’s Akari light sculpture, model PL2. The black side tables, in pine and cherry wood, combine the contours of a Chippendale candle stand with something of a Japanese-style aesthetic. Bodmer-Turner designed them with Laura Pepper, a woodworker and expert in traditional Windsor furniture, and urushi lacquer artist Yuko Gunji. And even though Bodmer-Turner didn’t have the means to fire it, clay was never too far from her thoughts; the table legs are based on clay shapes that she carved. On view through June 22.