Back to Blog August 31, 2022

Kukuli Velarde Displays Time-Based Sculpture in Tyler Courtyard

Author: Emily Herbein

This week, Tyler School of Art and Architecture became a satellite host for an installation by Peruvian artist and adjunct Ceramics Professor Kukuli Velarde in collaboration with Philadelphia’s The Clay Studio. The entire work, titled A Mi Vida X (To My Vida), consists of six clay multiple sculptures of infants. One of these unfired figures will reside in the Tyler courtyard until it can no longer withstand the elements of the outdoors. 

Velarde joined The Clay Studio in 1997 as a Resident Artist and has spent nearly a lifetime confronting the complexity and painful effects of Western colonialism through her lived experience. Her work reflects visual landscapes of her native country Peru enmeshed with contemporary American life.  

Velarde likens the creation of art to the creation of a child, a theme that is obviously present in A Mi Vida X (To My Vida), a series of sculptures based on her daughter, Vida. Velarde hoped to capture the feeling of longing to hold her now elementary school-aged daughter in her arms as a baby again. What started as a personal response to motherhood transformed into a rebuke against the trauma inflicted on children and families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

The original installation at The Clay Studio, which was a part of the opening celebration of the studio's new location, was part of a larger group exhibition Making Place Matter, and featured a performance aspect. Velarde held and then passed around each baby sculpture among the audience until they made their way back to her. “If I give you one of my pieces to hold, I cannot protect it. I'm giving you a responsibility that I do not know if you can manage, but I have to believe,” she says. 

Other artists featured included Egyptian ceramicist Ibrahim Said, who was a speaker in Tyler’s Critical Dialogue Series last year, and Massachusetts-based artist Molly Hatch. Velarde’s A Mi Vida X sculpture will be on display in Tyler’s Courtyard and, as Velarde describes, it is “left to be cared for, knowing that it may not be.” 

Photo caption: A Mi Vida X (To My Vida) being installed by Velarde. Image: Emily Herbein.