Kim Tucker, Portraits, ceramic, 2019

Hi! My name is Alyson, and I’m this year’s Getty Marrow Intern at AMOCA. I recently graduated from Chapman University with a BA in Art History and a minor in Anthropology.

Kim Tucker is an L.A. based artist creating human-like figurines, which she describes as “primal beings, ghosts, and human dummies.” 

When I first started my internship at AMOCA, Tucker’s Teenage Smiler, was one of the stand-out pieces for me in the AMOCA Collects! exhibition. The work is an almost to-scale bust of a woman, maybe a teenage girl, topless except for yellow smiley faces over the breasts, with braids, a forward, melty stare, and a long, protruding bright red smile. Something reminiscent of how a child would draw a self portrait, but not quite. 

Tucker highlights the handmade, organic aesthetic that is innate with clay- something that many artists, and production potters try to minimize. In last week’s trompe l’oeil blog post, each of those artists had handled their works to make them seem like they actually were the object they were representing, and not ceramic works. Finger marks in the clay are visible in Teenage Smiler, prominently displaying evidence of human hands touching and shifting clay. Towards the bottom of the torso, drag marks can be seen, lending the viewer to imagine Tucker actively working on the piece, and her process. 

To compliment the technical aspect of showing a sense of handmade-ness, Tucker works within themes of innocence, sensuality and sex, and the various psychological states that humans find themselves in, as imperfect beings. Tucker has spoken of her goal as being, “to express or represent our internal world, they are about feelings or more about the psychological state more than the physical state.” Teenage Smiler has a somewhat blank expression, despite there being obvious signs of tears running down the bust’s face. This allows the viewer to inject themselves into the work, bringing back memories of transitioning from childhood to their teenage years. 

Other works by Tucker include vast arrangements of figures, or portraits, as she refers to them, and installations. One of these recent installations, titled “Good Love and Broken Love” was included in AMOCA’s 2018 exhibition, The Incongruous Body. The installation comprises about forty sculptural ceramic works varying in size and arranged on pillars of different heights, accompanied by filled walls of ink drawings. The end result is a village of mismatched figures in different psychological states; some have contorted coils for heads, others have a stretched eye or looped eye for a head, and others, like Teenage Smiler, sit patiently. 

Alyson Brandes is a graduate of Chapman University and a 2020 Getty Marrow Undergraduate Intern at AMOCA. During her internship, Brandes writes periodically for, and posts on Instagram and Facebook on Tuesdays. Read her blog posts: