Magdolene Dykstra’s Burdened Figures

Magdolene Dykstra’s ceramic figures have captured considerable attention as this artist’s craft has matured. Recently returned from a year-long residency in the U.K., she explores the conflict between hope and despair. Her childishly proportioned figures, often disturbing, bear the burdens of life’s griefs.

(Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition / Photo: Peter Grevstad)

My characters show our hurt, our depravity, and our brokenness. This baggage weighs us down, and ages us beyond our years, shown in the figures’ tired features. –Magdolene Dykstra, artist statement.

Dykstra originally sculpted in stone, but says she shifted to clay, captured by the immediate responsiveness of the medium and its fleshiness as it pushed back against her hands. A mentorship program for ceramic artists at the Burlington Art Centre helped shape her work.

Many of Dykstra’s works are torsos, enveloped so that only their faces are seen.  They are trapped, she says, their spirits ensnared in physical forms.

Magdolene Dykstra’s website, here.

25 replies »

  1. I love the two figures sitting cross legged, they seem so child-like in their facial and body expressions but so old in the texture of their skin. It’s such a great visual conflict. I love these sculptures and emotions they exude, which make me want to give each and everyone of these pieces a hug.


  2. the last image of the pepto-bismol coloured torso
    is reminiscent of a hot water bottle but doesn’t look
    like it’d be as soothing!

    i have another musical quote to share after seeing
    these figures. the regina spektor song ‘apres moi’
    ‘be afraid of the lame
    they’ll inherit your legs
    be afraid of the old
    they’ll inherit your souls
    be afraid of the cold
    they’ll inherit your blood.
    apres moi le deluge
    after me comes the flood.’


  3. Faces and bodies so full of – I was going to say tension and character, but Ms Dykstra is more specific. But you’re right – compelling. I’m so glad you showed these to us CAJ:)


    • That’s such a true connection, isn’t it? I can see how her work would reflect what you’re seeing day to day. Interesting, because I thought of my father-in-law, and his end-of-life dementia, when I first saw her work.


What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s