What is Biomorphism?

At the American Museum of Ceramic Art, I'm happy to have a piece in the current exhibition celebrating biomorphic ceramics. It's a peculiar term, this "biomorphism." I'm not sure how other artists define it, but for me it's an artistic interpretation and exploration of our connection to living organisms, whether beautiful, creepy or even grotesque.

I'm not great at definitions, so I turned to my dictionary for some guidance. I found the Merriam Webster dictionary has a definition even broader than mine:

Definition of biomorphic:  resembling or suggesting the forms of living organisms <biomorphic sculptures> <biomorphic images>

source: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/biomorphic


Interestingly, the Merriam Webster dictionary dates the first use of the word 'biomorphic' to 1895. I would have thought the word was coined more recently than that.

I looked at another online dictionary for comparison and found this definition:

a painted, drawn, or sculptured free form or design suggestive in shape of a living organism, especially an ameba or protozoan: The paintings of Joan Miró are often notable for their playful, bright-colored biomorphs. ... biomorphic, adjective. biomorphism, noun.

source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/biomorphic


It's still a rather broad definition, but I'm not complaining, because it leaves the term even more open to interpretation. For me, rather than fussing with definitions, it's probably easier to show examples of work I think of as biomorphic. So, below are examples by three different artists: Lindsay Feuer, Charles Birnbaum, and Alice Ballard. Along with an example of each artist's work, I'm including a quote from that artist's website. You can check out their websites for more images, and there are many! These artists have produced some fascinating work, all with an organic quality, but not resembling any specific organism or plant. The joy of this approach to clay is in creating something lifelike that doesn't exist in reality, but is instead the product of the artist's imagination.


"Suspended in the realm between reality and fantasy, my sculptures explore the organic process of growth, replication, and locomotion.”


"Experienced visually, my works often seem to be self-contained entities, obviously abstract yet evocative of body parts or otherworldly creatures."


“metamorphosis of nature’s forms"


Spherical Swirl Lantern
Spherical Swirl Lantern

Small Seed Pod
Small Seed Pod