Tentative Intimacy, 2020, clear borosilicate glass, UV printed silicon, LED lightbox, 10 x 15 x 10 inches

Many-heads, 2021,clear borosilicate glass, 25 x 18 x 20 inches, 15 x 9 x 7 inches, 11 x 5 x 4 inches

Body of Indeterminism II, 2022, handblown borosilicate glass, 9 x 7 x 5 inches

Body of Indeterminism I, 2022, handblown borosilicate glass, 12 x 5 x 5 inches

Body of Indeterminism III, 2022, handblown borosilicate glass, 10 x 7 x 5 inches

Core I, 2021, colored borosilicate glass, 8 x 5 x 4 inches, 2021

Core II, 2021, colored borosilicate glass, aluminite, 7 x 3 x 3 inches

Core III, 2021, colored borosilicate glass, 10 x 7 x 6 inches

Precarious Encounter II, 2023, stoneware, glaze, color borosilicate glas, 10 x 8 x 19 inches

Precarious Encounter III, 2023, stoneware, glaze, color borosilicate glass, 10 x 8 x 19 inches

Precarious Encounter I, 2021, stoneware, glaze, borosilicate glass, 12 x 7 x 8 inches

Precarious Encounter II, 2021, stoneware, glaze, borosilicate glass, 12 x 7 x 8 inches

Symbiont, 2023, glazed stoneware, 14 x 12 x 8 inches

Subsurface (fungus), 2021, kiln-formed glass, 16 x 13 x 4 inches

Subsurface (lichen), 2021, kiln-formed glass, borosilicate glass, 15 x 12 x 6 inches
Egg-Born, Moisture-Born, With Scales, Without Scale

The series title references the category system in the Bencao Gangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica). Originally published in 1598, this ancient Chinese compendium presents the first taxonomy of vegetal, human, animal, mineral, and man-made matter, including some hybrid species that seem to come straight out of Borges’ fictional Chinese encyclopedia. “Egg-Born” and “Moisture-Born” are among the categories of insects that indicate the criteria of genesis. “Scaly”, as one of the chapter titles, refers to biological anatomy that distinguishes organisms, while in English, the term “scale” also means an ordered reference standard.

From the clear or colored borosilicate glass pieces, one might recognize fungi, slime mold, soil bacteria, roots, burls, tentacles, embryos, umbilical cords, exposed exoskeletons or digesting organs. With forms that evoke preconscious memories of primordial microscopic organisms, the intermediate materiality of glass alludes to the transitional state across the threshold between the world of organic and inorganic. Such limit-breaching intimacy unfolded about 500 million years ago when bone emerged from mineralization of fleshy, soft tissue, which later gave rise to the vertebrate phylum to which we belong. The living material that builds us also most easily petrifies our ever existence. Through a combination of natural and synthetic materials and idiosyncratic forms, these sculptures exude a mixed sense of familiarity and estrangement, perhaps recognized from past incarnations of our very biological and mineral origin; while simultaneously encoding the clues of future evolution.

Stoneware and borosilicate glass sculpture Precarious Encounter imagines the interspecies relationship between fungi and its host body, exploring another form of entangled life through contagion and co-becoming, while  Subsurface synthesizes textures of desert rocks, swamp frog skin, and forest mushrooms through lifecasting with kiln-formed glass, indicating the form of being that transgresses categories.
© Shuyi Cao 2023