Dani Sigler: Feminist Ceramicist Preaches Pussy Empowerment

With each pussy-adorned plate, caged pet penis, and vulva-shaped earring, Feminist ceramicist Dani Sigler transforms wet, waiting mounds of clay into compelling anti-patriarchal statements. The Brooklyn-based artist’s vibrantly colored works critique male hegemony and misogyny while raising awareness about women’s reproductive rights through humor and irony. Sigler’s porn plates make it easy to eat out while dining in, and her erotic pets series gives a gal the chance to catch herself a cock once and for all (if that’s what she’s into). We chatted with Sigler about her feminist art icons, the erotic possibilities of her medium, and her message.

Your artist statement presents your work as politically motivated. What issues matter most to you, and how do you address them in your art?

Naturally, women’s rights matter to me the most as a feminist artist. The majority of my work has been focused on reproductive rights. But I’m also deeply concerned about human rights in general. My work is definitely politically motivated, as I find it impossible to sit back and watch female rights get reversed or stand still. The images, topics, and colors are loud in my work, and the use of humor is an effective way to get a conversation started. I find that people are still apprehensive and intimidated by the word ‘feminism’ because of a lack of education and humor can be a great icebreaker. By keeping objects in the domestic realm, I create a larger audience and a more inclusive body of work. Our society needs to keep pushing forward and stop ignoring these problems.

What artists have inspired your work? Do you connect to a lineage of feminist artists?

There are quite a few artists that have inspired my work. Right now, I’ve been looking at Judy Chicago, Chris Antemann, and Sophia Wallace. My feminist peers are very inspirational and we bounce ideas off of each other. I do see myself as part of the feminist artist family tree in both my career and personal life. As a part of this, I find it important to educate the generation below me about female rights movements so history doesn’t have to repeat itself.

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Some of your pieces are functional, and sit at the precarious intersection between art and craft (the latter is often associated with women and viewed as inferior to the former). What are your views about that intersection and the way the art world views crafts, functional art, and “feminine” mediums?

The “craft vs. art” discussion has been going on for years and I’m not sure it will ever end. Recently, I have been noticing more and more ceramics pieces in NYC galleries and museums. Clay is ‘in’ right now and is crossing the line between art and craft. In my own work, I have a lot of fun crossing that boundary. Why should I limit myself to one category? I have been trained in and enjoy doing both. By creating work that is functional and domestic, I keep conversations at the ‘everyday’ level. This makes my work more inclusive for multiple audiences, as opposed to limiting it to specific elitist groups or sites. My content is strong but my objects are approachable.

I do understand that craft and women are considered inferior to art and men and I don’t believe that to be true. Making a functional piece out of clay definitely takes more skill than painting a white canvas, but what happens when we mix the two? Sexism is alive and well in the art world, both blatantly and subconsciously, as art is a reflection of society. But there’s a lot of sexism in the craft world, as well. It’s great to see all these ceramic pieces popping up all over NYC, but how many more of them are made by men as opposed to women?

Yes, apparently a lot of people view craft as feminine, but the connotation could go either way; I view it as both. Ceramicists often refer to their pots as ladies. Carpenters are often thought of as men. A preconceived notion is that ceramics studios are full of older women sitting around making pots, which I find to be pretty awesome and true. But, almost every studio I’ve worked in has been dominated by male leadership. I currently work for my first ceramics studio that is run by all women and it’s a nice change of pace.

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The way you describe clay as a medium is somewhat erotic. Is your process just as important to you as the final product? What possibilities does clay offer that other mediums do not?

I think ceramics is all about the process because it takes such a long time to create a piece from start to finish. In my sculptural pieces I could just use something like plaster to get a quicker, final product, but clay is a material that encourages touching and I am very hands-on. The contrast between the starting and ending products in ceramics is interesting to me. When the clay becomes fired, it will last forever, whereas wet clay can just wash away. I also think clay is one of the most limitless materials. For instance, it can be food safe and functional or sculptural. I’ve been trained to work in a ton of art materials and I still go back to clay as my main medium of choice. It has many similarities to human flesh as it can be touched, kneaded, poked, rubbed with water, and squeezed but requires a gentle yet firm touch. An example of eroticism in clay is pulling a handle. It is one of the most erotic (yet common) processes in clay, and results in a part of an object that people use everyday and don’t ever think about. I think the erotic undertones are hilarious.

Any upcoming exhibitions or projects you can share with us?

Starting at 7/8pm on Tuesday, June 24th, I will be a part of Planned Parenthood’s annual fundraiser: Summer, Sex, and Spirits. I will have a ceramic plate to bid on at the Hudson Terrace.

Also, you can find my work on a regular basis at Shag: A Sexy Shop in Williamsburg. They have a ton of handmade, local, sexy art. Check it out HERE.

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