Arts & Life, Film & Television

CSULB student uses ceramics to shatter old-world habits

When audiences enter the Merlino Gallery at Long Beach State, they’re faced with two questions on a sheet of paper: Where do women stand when marriage is no longer an obligation? What freedom can women find?

Ceramic art major Maria Abrahamian, 26, explores these questions as the latest artist showcasing her work in the Merlino Gallery. Her solo exhibition, which will display until Thursday, Feb. 20, consists of six sculptural pieces that confront the social constructs of womanhood.   

“Growing up as a young girl people always comment on your body and your appearance,” she said. “Everything is policed. You become sexualized … Body stuff is just really present in childhood … your relationship to your body. People like telling you what you should and shouldn’t do with it.”

Abrahamian said that her work in the 235-square-foot gallery is influenced by her world, informed by her experiences growing up in the Midwest with “strong emphasis on social expectations and conformity.” 

“Work Around the Clock,” the first piece to greet spectators, is composed of unfired porcelain arranged to look like a clock. In the middle sits a purple duffle bag overflowing with eggs, stuffed tights and a barrette clip.

Katie Grinnan, a sponsor of the exhibition and professor of sculpture, said that themes in Abrahamian’s work reminded her of self-portrait photographer Cindy Sherman. Sherman’s work is well-known for dismantling the old-fashioned masculine gaze of women. The correlation between time and gender constructs in both artists’ work. 

Visitors are also confronted by pieces like “Expectations,” which consists of egg yolks trapped in gelatin on a ceramic cake stand. 

“The presence of eggs throughout the works act as a symbol of sustenance and fertility,” Abrahamian said. 

Motherhood is something that the ceramicist said is more of a conscious decision today than it was in the past.

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Maria Abrahamian’s 2019 piece “Work Around the Clock'' sits in the Merlino Gallery. The piece consists of unfired porcelain numbers arranged around a duffle bag filled with eggs, stuffed tights and a barrette clip. The piece, along with the rest of Abrahamian’s artwork, will be on display Feb. 16-20.

Rajvinder Singh/Daily Forty-Niner

Linguistics major Nikita Gomez, 26, viewed the gallery Monday and said that he most enjoyed the accessibility factor of the exhibition. When messages are muddled, he becomes disengaged from the art.

“I always want there to be a deeper meaning to it, but I want it to be super accessible to someone who might not want to dive so deep,” Abrahamian said. 

The exhibition consists of individual pieces that Abrahamian had been working on since last semester. Because of the cohesiveness of the pieces, a professor suggested that Abrahamian have her own installation.

Student art gallery installations are typically reserved for senior or group shows but Abrahamian is neither. 

“This is just a show I wanted to put on,” she said.   

Her longing to become an artist began in kindergarten. Shortly thereafter, her passion for art disappeared until she found her love for it again during her senior year of high school.

Ceramics was the medium that helped her see herself as an artist again. 

“I would go and do other things but I would always come back to ceramics,” Abrahamian said. 

Maria Abrahamian’s exhibition will be open at the Merlino Gallery at CSULB until Feb. 20. The gallery is open 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 7 p.m. Wednesdays. 

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