Those who know Toni Ross as an artist are aware of her attention to detail. Through this article I intend to provide a close-up view of Toni Ross’s ceramic work referred to as Strata, and provide an opportunity for us to see the work and artist in a new perspective. Strata are made of joined pieces of cut ceramic slabs which began as cast-offs from other projects. I tend to think of this technique as Ross’s way of channeling her early experience as a pastry chef. There is a frugality in her studio where nothing goes to waste. Ceramic slab remnants are reincorporated into new work the way excess rolled-out pie dough is reclaimed for the next pie shell. Discussions about clay and food seem natural enough, especially since meals, in general, are served and eaten out of pottery of one type or another. Notions of warmth and sustenance are attached to both. However, the individual sculptural pieces which comprise Ross’s Strata serve an entirely different purpose, they serve the soul.
Strata represent one of Ross’s unique contributions to the art world. The pieces can be contextualized in relationship to other works in her oeuvre and as well as to ancient, modern, and contemporary art forms. From a chronological point of view, Strata came into being in 2016. Her previous and concurrent ceramic works include hand-formed sculptural vessels, archetypal cubes, and archaic stela which have been exhibited selectively at Ricco/Maresca Gallery in New York City and The Drawing Room in East Hampton, NY. While Ross’s artistic development is more organic than linear, and more open to accident and change than to premeditated moves, her work evolves incrementally over time. This results in inter-connectedness among all her pieces. This thread of visual continuity in her work forms the basis of a distinctive artistic language, which is simultaneously visceral and intuitive. As such, it was not surprising to learn that in 2016 Cindy Sherman selected Ross’s April 13 for the Artists Choose Artists exhibition at the Parrish Museum, based on a “gut reaction to the work”.
The piece reads a bit like a life line; a time line with highs and lows, beauty and parts torn asunder.