Weird, creepy, dark. Animals with extraneous parts. Just some of the words ceramic artist Erika Sanada uses to describe her abundant body of work. But these adjectives cover one half of the picture, for in these soft-looking, white-eyed mammals and their delicate winged companions, we see pasteled and tapered neonates, birthed, spanked, wiped clean, and delicately dipped in the finest royal icing. With bodies and gestures both sweet and sour, these smallish beasts display snarls, beaks, horns and teeth, all softened by a smooth, slightly creased texture that begs to be touched by the daring. But to the bold, beware – you may draw back a nub.
Citing HR Giger as her favorite artist, and indulging in SciFi and horror films during down time, Sanada makes the work that has become her coping. As stated in a 2014 online article, “I decided to go face-to-face with my anxieties by creating irregular and eerie creatures representing my dark side. As a result, these creatures show my twisted mind as I try to overcome anxiety through my creation.”
Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, the artist uses her signature ceramic medium to create bizarre creatures (pinkies, puppies, piglets) originally inspired by those she’d seen early on in horror films. Speaking with regard to “Odd Things,” her 2013 body of work, the artist stated, “My animals have extra body parts such as multiple arms, legs, teeth and ears. Clay allows me to create what’s in my head. These animals with their small deformities help me express my sensitive side. A troubled childhood and constant ‘life’ anxieties are all expressed in ‘Odd Things.’” Sanada has exhibited most recently at Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Indiana, Arch Enemy Arts in Pennsylvania, and BeinArt Gallery in Australia.
Sanada received her BA in Tokyo and worked as a commercial illustrator and a makeup artist for film before moving to California where she received her MFA in sculpture. “Beautiful and disturbing are terms I hear when people talk about my work and I love that these two terms are not often used together. Life,” she states simply, “beautiful and disturbing.”