Really something as well, albeit in a very different way, are the assembled clay sculptures in the Material show at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery. One of those unusual group shows that functions as a fairly coherent installation in its own right, Material highlights clay's versatility in effectively evoking flesh, bone, cloth, paper, even atoms and, of course, animals, in the crosshatched arrangement of horse or pony skulls in Blake William's Oct. Nov. Dec. Williams is fascinated by the way the rituals of domestic life coexist with the untamed world that appears in our dreams, and this piece may mark a kind of intersection of the two. More horses appear, along with a variety of other animals and humans, in former New Orleanian Cara Moczygemba's collection of exotic oddities at d.o.c.s. (709 Camp St.). There is an aura of antiquity and fallen empire surrounding these works as well as hints of her Romanian ancestry expressed as a sort of surreal psychic intensity, Romania being a place where Slavic and Roman interests historically collided. All that assumes a life of its own in pieces like Buck, a fawn with a balding human head, or Self Portrait With Ermine, a quietly unsettling study of feral and domestic sensibilities.
Speaking of the feral, there's no end of beasts in Clay Under the Big Top at the Big Top Gallery (1638 Clio St.). Among the more provocative is Morgana King's Bush Dynasty Vessel, Circa 1989-2008, a modern adaptation of Ming dynasty ceramics in the form of a realistic clay replica of a plastic gas can with a Chinese dragon painted on it. Beyond the contrast of a cheap plastic container carefully replicated in clay, the sense of American power being siphoned away by nascent Asian economies in league with entrenched domestic oil cartels is palpable. But the most elaborate display of beastly beatitudes appears in Maria Lovullo's collection of vastly oversized malefic insects and Pandra Williams' beautifully chilling hybrid species on the far walls. This sort of artful blending of animal, mineral and human sensibilities appears in a number of impressive clay shows about town in a new breed of ceramic sculpture that often seems to mirror the polymorphous propensities of modern science.