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Some of Keeley Antoon’s Chi Chi vases that she began creating during COVID-19.// Photo courtesy of Keeley Antoon

By Bailey Sytsma

Ceramics artist Keely Antoon began creating her Chi Chi vase ceramic sculptures one year ago when inspired by Meegan Barnes’ sculptures of female bodies. Antoon’s sculptures are of women's breasts that range from being pierced and tattooed, to being covered in glitter papier mache.

Antoon said she decided to make her work public once social distancing started because she had more time on her hands to create more art pieces. Support and inspiration from friends has also pushed Antoon to feel confident in her work, she said.

“What made me want to start showing my work was this pandemic. Since I’ve had more time on my hands I have been able to create more,” Antoon said. “Since I have been creating more, I felt that I had enough of my new sculptures to start sharing them online, because I can’t share them in person and I have definitely had a lot of support from my friends.”

Antoon said the goal for her art work is to inspire others to love themselves and their bodies. She said she gets inspiration for her sculptures from herself and her own body confidence.

“I want people to look at my sculptures and think they’re beautiful no matter what shape and size they are,” Antoon said.

Antoon said she’s planning to start selling her Chi Chi vases in June using online platforms such as Instagram or Etsy. She said she plans on creating more vases before she puts them on the market so they’re not first come, first served items.

“My goal is to be a self sustaining studio artist. So if I can make and sell my work and make a living nothing else would make me happier,” Antoon said. “Loving what you do is so incredibly important to me.”

Claudia Rocha said she met Antoon two years ago when they were randomly selected to be roommates at Western. Rocha graduated this year but the two still remain friends, and Rocha has been Antoon’s biggest supporter for her art work.

“I have definitely had a lot of support from my friends. My main supporter and one of my best friends Claudia has been a massive help with coming up with ideas and being inclusive to all people,” Antoon said.

Rocha said that Antoon’s work is inspiring and empowering, and she’s looking forward to buying her work once they are for sale. She also encourages others to buy from local artists and support friends during this time.

“She won’t let me buy any. I'll have to buy it anonymously because as much as I appreciate the gesture of her gifting me a piece I know how many hours and how much love she puts into each piece and I want to support her every way I can,” Rocha said. “Which includes monetarily supporting local artists and supporting your friends.”

Rocha said she’s also an artist and sees Antoon’s work as a piece of feminism that expresses body positivity that shows people that feminism does not always have to be serious and the body does not always look one way.

“This is invigorating for Keeley and exciting for people with breasts to see because each piece has so much personality and unique energy,” Rocha said. “I think she is doing something great and I cannot express how grateful I am to be a part of the brainstorming process for this series and I'm so excited for future projects she embarks on.”

Ryan W. Kelly, an art assistant professor at Western, teaches ceramics classes for students like Antoon, who want to pursue sculpting. He said one of his assignments is to take inspiration from other famous artists for a sculpture.

“Hand building is a slower, more meditative process. I show students a lot of examples from historical ceramic sculptures, but also contemporary artists,” Kelly said. “I often ask students to do research on artists and not copy that work, but to respond to it to make an artwork that they know that is kind of borrowing from that inspiration, but making it their own.”

Kelly said the most important thing an artist can do is to have confidence in their work and to trust the process. With sculpting, the artist can always fix and pick at the work until satisfied. Kelly said he uses art forms like photography as an example of art that is a quicker process than sculpting.

“Sculpting is a much slower creative act and you need to sustain your interest in that idea over a much longer period of time to see it through to the end,” Kelly said. “I think some people get frustrated or get bored by their own ideas after a couple days.”

Working on numerous projects at a time to bounce back and forth between works is a way to not become discouraged or bored of art pieces that are worked on for long periods of time, Kelly said.

Kelly said that being an artist means being able to handle constructive criticism from others. Also, being able to dismiss harsh criticism that is uninformative and negative to an artist’s work, learning the difference of when to take advice and when to ignore what Kelly calls bad energy.

“The most important thing that people should know about my art and I is that I am true to myself and my art. I love what I do, and what other people think about it is their own opinion,” Antoon said. “I make my art for me, I'm appreciative of all the love and support that has come my way so far and I will continue to be.”


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