Arturo Sandoval III is 6’5”. His nickname is Tury, pronounced 2-D, and he has helped define what art means to me. His hands are huge, almost clumsy looking, with a set of meaty fingers at their end. He’s a party animal at heart; having crashed three different Porsches between the ages of eighteen and thirty five. And he’s probably the only person who’s gotten my parents to stay out past midnight in the last twenty years.
It would certainly be unordinary, perhaps even extraordinary, for one, at first glance, to associate him with the finer things. Once, on his way to Grand Central Market for lunch from his office in that neighborhood, he was stopped and handed money on the misconception he was homeless. His favorite T-Shirt, depicting a crocodile holding a phone and a Floridian phone number underneath, is so hole filled some might argue the validity of calling it a T-shirt at all. Despite the unrefined appearance, Tury is a master artist.
His work has been used in Miami, New York, and Hong Kong in exhibits, parades, and concerts. He is the co-founder of an art collective known as Friends With You whose pieces are anything but 2-D, often sculptures, large inflatables, and plasticine cut out collages. The message of their work revolves around kindness, positivity, and joy.
Away from his Downtown office, his garage, now converted tinker space, paradoxical to his untamed personality, is perfectly organized. In this garage, Tury made a ceramic sculpture which has been the most influential piece of art I have been privileged enough to own or consume at all.
The sculpture is a fairly simple form, it stands about a foot tall and four inches wide. The shape is a gentle—in mathematical terms—frustum of a cone, which has been subtly choked about two thirds of the way up, it has a dome top and a ring handle above that. The outside perimeter of the ring is a little smaller than a tennis ball, the inside, a little larger than a grape. The whole piece is covered in an off-white lava glaze with yellow under it. For those unfamiliar, lava glaze creates a heavily textured surface on a piece, it is often compared to how lava rock looks, but this particular example reminds me more of the surface of the moon or some other extraterrestrial object.
Since it was gifted to me, this piece has remained inspirational for a few reasons. The first, is simply that as far as a piece of art goes it is beautifully crafted. When light shines from one side of it (how it’s displayed in my room) the light wraps across the surface in such a beautiful way that it changed the way I think about how my work interacts with its environment, through texture, pattern, and color. It also does something that I think defines some of the best ceramic pieces I’ve seen: it expresses the natural form of a clay body, demonstrating the essence of the material in combination with a modern and minimalist look and aesthetic. Conceptually, much of my work revolves around attaining this dichotomy within my pieces. To make something beautifully modern without compromising the identity of the clay itself.
But, I think its biggest influence on me is that it is simply a sculpture, it has no purpose other than to be looked at, truly just a piece of art. From the time I started ceramics in fourth grade, all the way until junior year, I believed that the ceramic pieces I created needed a function. I thought throwing a cup, bowl, or vase made more sense than making a sculptural piece. It wasn’t that I didn’t see the value of a sculpture or a piece of art, rather, I did not believe myself to be an artist, and so, my job was to make utilitarian items. This piece, along with encouragement from my ceramics teacher, allowed me to understand that ceramics didn’t just have to be about making simple cups but it truly could be an outlet to express my creativity.
Despite its simple appearance this piece of art changed the way I thought about and interacted with clay forms. It defined, above all, the value of creating a ceramic piece with the sole purpose of being a work of art.