The Potential of Objects


April 2, 2022 - June 5, 2022

Thursday, April 21, 2022, 5–6 PM via Zoom. In conversation: Demetri Broxton and Natani Notah


Eleven emerging artists who use everyday materials to explore the human condition


The Potential of Objects has been selected as an Artforum Critics' Pick. You can check out the full review here.

Artists in the exhibition: Teresa Baker, Ashwini Bhat, Demetri Broxton, Sophronia Cook, Tyler Cross & Kyle Lypka, Renée Gertler, Cathy Lu, Masako Miki, Natani Notah and Peter Simensky.

The Potential of Objects highlights eleven emerging artists with ties to the Bay Area who use everyday materials to explore the human condition. In their hands, objects become transformative—vessels, mirrors, talismans—and engage with a range of social and political issues.

The works on view deploy a combination of natural and artificial materials, from clay, fiber, minerals, and shells to AstroTurf, pleather, resin, and steel, to draw out hidden meanings and latent possibilities. Teresa Baker, Demetri Broxton, Cathy Lu, Masako Miki, and Natani Notah manipulate traditional cultural objects through a contemporary lens to challenge our assumptions of identity, borders, and inherited values. Ashwini Bhat, Sophronia Cook, Tyler Cross and Kyle Lypka, Renée Gertler, and Peter Simensky invent entirely new forms as conduits for healing, preservation, intimacy, and universal connection. The works provoke questions: How does identity relate to inanimate objects? Can things connect disparate geographies, or past and present? And when does object making become an act of resistance? 

The exhibition reflects recent contemporary debates around visual culture, and also draws from a long history in both Eastern and Western philosophy of pondering the “vital forces” of the supposedly inanimate. All of the featured artists suggest that matter, things, and nonhuman forces have agency, vitality, and auras of their own. A vibrant materialism imbues their work.

As we collectively reemerge from prolonged separation and try to make sense of today’s polarized culture, conflicting values, and distortions of truth, these artists consider the potential of objects to wrestle with the pressing issues of our time. They demonstrate the alchemical power of sculpture to question, transform, and restore our relationships to the things that surround us, and to one another.

This exhibition is supported, in part, by Linda Jesmock and William Otton.

Admission: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students. Free for members.

Learn more:
Read the exhibition brochure
Read the press release

Public Programs:

Docent tours
Begin April 6 and take place Wednesdays at 11am and Saturdays at 2pm. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022, 5–6 PM on Zoom. Free. Register here today.
In conversation: Demetri Broxton and Natani Notah, moderated by Amy Owen 
Join artists Demetri Broxton and Natani Notah for a conversation about their dynamic practices and works on view in The Potential of Objects. The two will discuss how cultural objects find their way into mainstream contemporary culture and how their work aspires to reveal and nurture understanding across cultural divides. Moderated by Amy Owen. 

Saturday, May 14, 2022, 2–4 PM 
Community Dream Pillow Ceramics Workshop with Cathy Lu 
MarinMOCA Classroom 
$60/$50 for members, includes materials and firing. Capacity is limited. Advance registration required via Brown Paper Tickets.
Appropriate for ages 14+, must be accompanied by an adult.

Join artist Cathy Lu for a special collaborative ceramics workshop! The artist will provide a brief walk through of her works in The Potential of Objects followed by a special community based studio session in MarinMOCA's classroom. During this two-hour workshop, Lu will guide the group in creating a community "dream pillow" inspired by her works on view in the gallery. Participants will also have the opportunity to create their own personal dream pillow "charms." See the exhibition guide to learn more about Lu's work and the history of the ceramic dream pillow.

All art materials and firing will be provided by MarinMOCA. Completed charms will be available for pick-up at a later date. No experience necessary.

Sunday, June 5, 2022, 11 AM–4 PM 
Closing reception and Family Day Shape-Shifter Workshop inspired by the work of Masako Miki
MarinMOCA Galleries and Classroom 

Artist Biographies:

Teresa Baker (b. 1985, Watford City, ND) is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. In 2021 she had solo exhibitions at de boer gallery, Los Angeles, and Pied-à-terre, San Francisco. She has exhibited widely in the San Francisco Bay Area, including at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, Kiria Koula, Et al., and the Luggage Store Gallery. In 2016 she had her first solo museum show at the Art Museum of Southeast Texas, Beaumont. She has received the fellowship for Native American visual artists at the Ucross Foundation (2020), a Tournesol Award artist residency at Headlands Center for the Arts (2013–14), and an artist residency at MacDowell (2015). Baker holds a MFA from California College of the Arts and a BA from Fordham University.

Ashwini Bhat (b. 1980, Puttur, India) currently lives and works in Petaluma. Coming from a background in literature and classical Indian dance, she now works in ceramics, sculpture, installation, and performance. Bhat has been a recipient of the McKnight residency fellowship and the Howard Foundation award for sculpture. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and resides in the collections of the Newport Art Museum, Rhode Island; Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Koka, Japan; the FuLe International Ceramic Art Museum, Xi’an, China; the Watson Institute at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island; the New Bedford Historical Society, Massachusetts, and many private collections. She has been reviewed and featured in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Alta Journal, the Brooklyn Rail, Lana Turner: A Journal of Poetry and Opinion, Riot Material, Ceramic Art and Perception, Ceramics Ireland, New Ceramics, Caliban, Crafts Arts International, Studio Potter, American Craft Council, Logbook, and Ceramics Monthly.

Demetri Broxton (b. 1979, Oakland) is a mixed-media artist of Louisiana Creole and Filipino heritage. His textile sculptures reflect his connection to the sacred art of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, the beading traditions of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indians, and his love of hip-hop and graffiti. Broxton holds a BFA with an emphasis in oil painting from the University of California, Berkeley (2002) and an MA in museum studies from San Francisco State University (2010). His work has been exhibited internationally, most recently at SFMOMA Artists Gallery, San Francisco (2019), Untitled Art Fair, Miami Beach (2021, 2020), and Kala Art Institute, Berkeley (2021). His work is in the permanent collection of the Monterey Museum of Art and several private collections. He is represented by Patricia Sweetow Gallery in San Francisco.

Sophronia Cook (b. 1992, Sanger, CA) lives and works in Los Angeles. Cook’s heavily textured, sculptural collage works compound images while sealing the replicas of both familiar and distant memories. She has exhibited in the Bay Area at Embark Gallery, SOMArts, Diego Rivera Gallery, Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, and most recently Et al. She has been an artist in residence with Recology and LightSource in San Francisco and has been featured at LVL3 gallery, Chicago.

Tyler Cross (b. 1992, Lancaster, CA) and Kyle Lypka (b. 1987, Philadelphia) met online in 2013 and currently live and work in Oakland. In 2016 they started making ceramic vases as a way to spend time together. Lypkahad been pursuing figurative sculpture and Cross was studying design, and the vases led to a collaborative sculpture practice that provided novel possibilities while also alleviating some of the difficulties of being a solo artist in the studio. 

Renée Gertler (b. 1974, Santa Barbara, CA) holds a BFA and an MFA in sculpture from California College of Arts, and also studied landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Her sculptures and installations have been exhibited in the Bay Area at Headlands Center for the Arts, San Francisco Arts Commission Gallery, di Rosa, the Institute of Contemporary Art San Jose, New Langton Arts, Southern Exposure, Eleanor Harwood Gallery, Patricia Sweetow Gallery, and Et. al. Gertler has been awarded the Anthony and Cadogan Fellowship, a Danish Arts Council grant, and artist residencies at the John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry program, Spaces, Cleveland Ohio, Vermont Studio Center, Pilchuck Glass School Emerging Artists Fellowship, MacDowell, and Kala Art Institute.  

Cathy Lu (b. 1984, Miami, FL) is a ceramics-based artist who manipulates traditional Chinese imagery and presentation as a way to deconstruct received ideas about Chinese identity and cultural authenticity. She explores what it means to be both Asian and American while not being entirely accepted as either, and unpacks how experiences of immigration, cultural hybridity, and cultural assimilation become part of American identity. She received her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and her BA and BFA from Tufts University. She has had artist residencies at Root Division, Bemis Center for the Arts, Recology, and the Archie Bray Foundation. Her work has been exhibited in the Bay Area at Johansson Projects, Aggregate Space, Jessica Silverman Gallery, and the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. She was a 2019 Asian Cultural Council/Beijing Contemporary Art Foundation fellow. She currently teaches at California College of the Arts and Mills College.

Masako Miki (b. 1973, Osaka) has exhibited her immersive felt sculptural installations and watercolor works on paper in the United States, Japan, and China, including at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive and the de Young Museum, San Francisco. Inspired by Shinto animism, Miki crafts new mythologies concerning cultural identity as social collectives. She was a recipient of the 2018 Inga Maren Otto Fellowship from Watermill Center in New York, and has been a resident artist at de Young Museum and Facebook headquarters. Her work is in the Colección Solo in Spain and the collections of Facebook Inc. and the Berkeley Art Museum. She currently has monumental outdoor installations on view at Uber headquarters in San Francisco and OH Bay cultural coastal park in Shenzhen, China. Miki is based in Berkeley and is represented by CULT Aimee Friberg Exhibitions, San Francisco, and Ryan Lee Gallery, New York.

Natani Notah (b. 1992, San Bernardino, CA) is an interdisciplinary artist and a proud member of the Navajo Nation. Her current art practice explores contemporary Native American identity through the lens of Diné womanhood. Notah has exhibited her work at apexart, New York; NXTHVN, New Haven, Connecticut; the Tucson Desert Art Museum, Arizona; Gas Gallery, Los Angeles; Holland Project, Reno; Mana Contemporary, Chicago; Axis Gallery, Sacramento; SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, and elsewhere. She has received awards from Art Matters, International Sculpture Center, and the San Francisco Foundation. Her work has been featured in Art in America, Hyperallergic, Forbes, and Sculpture, and she has completed artist residencies at the Vermont Studio Center, Grounds for Sculpture, Headlands Center for the Arts, and Kala Art Institute. Notah holds a BFA with a minor in feminist, gender, and sexuality studies from Cornell University and an MFA from Stanford University. Currently she is a 2021–23 Tulsa Artist Fellow.

Peter Simensky (b. 1975, Portland, ME) is an interdisciplinary artist whose work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Oregon; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Museum 52, New York; 500m Museum, Sapporo, Japan; the Swiss Institute, New York; and Project Row Houses, Houston. Selected group exhibitions have taken place at Sculpture Center, New York; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; Mass MoCA, North Adams, Massachusetts; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; and Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York. Grants, residencies, and awards include the NYFA Fellowship, Foundation for Contemporary Arts grants, MacDowell, Skowhegan, and most recently La Tallera, Proyecto Siqueiros, Mexico, where he is researching and producing work on the silver industry. Recent performances include Heavy Breathing at the CCA Wattis Institute and a commission for the de Young Museum, both in San Francisco. Simensky chairs the Sculpture and Individualized programs at California College of the Arts. 

Ashwini Bhat, My Body Is Dirt, My Spirit Is Space (detail), 2021-2022, glazed ceramic, thread, wood, 48 x 12 x 8 in. Courtesy of the artist and Shoshana Wayne Gallery.

Natani Notah, Shell-Shocked, 2021, vintage t-shirt, shell beads, thread, faux fur, belt and plastic corn pellets, 15 x 11 8 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Cathy Lu, American Dream Pillow, 2020, porcelain, 17 x 11 x 6 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Demetri Broxton, Save Me, Joe Louis, 2019-21, Everlast boxing gloves, redwood, glass pearls, cowrie shells, Japanese and Czech seed beads, cotton, silver wire, stainless steel chain and hardware, frankincense, nylon thread, mirrors, 16 x 24 x 15 in. Courtesy of the artist and Patricia Sweetow Gallery, Oakland. 

Peter Simensky, Pyrite Pirate Radio - drum kit, 2021, Pyrite (fool’s gold), steel, plywood, copper, electrical wires, antenna cymbal, brass tubes, amplifiers, and radio hardware. Courtesy of the artist.




The Potential of Objects


April 2, 2022 - June 5, 2022

Thursday, April 21, 2022, 5–6 PM via Zoom. In conversation: Demetri Broxton and Natani Notah


Eleven emerging artists who use everyday materials to explore the human condition