Bricks painted in white and blue with images of pansies

The revolutionary ceramics of Nicki Green

The first piece of Nicki Green’s I ever saw struck me in a way I did not expect from blue and white pottery. “Nina, after Bruce Labruce” is a clay jug painted in blue and white style that originated centuries ago in China. Repeating around the jug is a painting of Bruce Labruce’s photo of Nina Arsenault, nude, holding an AK47 and looking like the most powerful thing in the world.Stuffed into the top of the jug is a lavender hanky, which flags likes drag/is a queen. A queer/drag/trans/classical molotov cocktail, this piece – and Green’s work in general – is a trans art history nerd’s wet dream.


Nina, after Bruce Labruce, by Nicki Green, 2013. Glazed earthenware with cotton hanky. 6″ x 17″ x 6″

Nicki Green’s art is currently on display, along with work by James Gobel and Ariel Goldberg, at 2nd Floor Projects in San Francisco until February 21st.

Green’s revolutionary ceramics also include bricks (for throwing, of course) painted with images like pansies, carnations, mushrooms, and diagrams of genital surgery. There are vessels with sculpted dicks protruding from them, covered in lovingly painted flowers and designs. The rough quality of some of Green’s ceramics, matched with perfectly crafted details, keeps the artist’s hand visible in the work, just as her ideas and interests show through so clearly in its content.

I asked Green about the compelling, eclectic collection of signifiers brought together in her work.

“I’ve always been really fascinated by the idea of coding and communicating in covert ways, the kind of insider-ness of queer iconography. Hanky coding was totally one of my first entries into this concept and worked it’s way into the work via the molotov cocktail as a way to incorporate non-ceramic materials into a ceramics practice. I’ve been really into the collecting of visual information and kind of putting it all together via ceramics. I’ve been working in ceramics for a long time, but I got into blue-and-white glaze because it felt so recognizable and was a technical skill I wanted to learn, to try and replicate a pretty specific aesthetic and material practice, and i quickly realized how perfect the aesthetic could be for compiling patterns of queer symbols and icons. I keep having these revelations about the ubiquitousness of ceramics and it’s ability to be used as these queer revolutionary tools, like “oh! clay bottles as molotov cocktails!” “earthenware bricks to throw!” and lately looking to Judaism, Kabbalah and alchemy for themes like sacred vessels, immersion, fermentation, the well, etc. and trying to think about “revolutionary” as equally powerful in a domestic space versus in public, in the street. Ceramics have always been considered useful but also very much connected to community building, magic, creation and holiness, so these form feel so relevant as vehicles for describing all these concepts filtered through a (my) queer and trans lens.”

Green told me about what she’s exploring in some of the new work currently on display:

“This show has work that show the beginning stages of a newly budding (fruiting?) interest in fungus and using mycelium and mushrooms as a way to talk about queerness and transness without using images of the body explicitly. Last spring I found an amazing (and amazingly disturbing!) book called Der Giftpilz (The Poisonous Mushroom) by Ernst Hiemer that is about a German mother and her son picking mushrooms and discussing how dangerous and untrustworthy Jews are. I began to think about all the ways this metaphor could be used to talk about queers as well; the underground networks of mycelium, the idea of growth from decomposition, the “fruiting” of the mushrooms and the beauty in these forms. Reclaiming derogatory language has been a major part of my being able to think critically about my identities and my body in the world, and this direction feels like an extension of that (albeit a really intense one…)”

Check out Nicki Green’s work on display now if you’re in the SF area, and visit her website for more examples of her ceramics and other art.

Images via


Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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