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ART FACULTY SHOW 2012: Recent Work by SRJC Faculty

February 21 – March 15, 2012

Holding On

Joel Bennett, Holding On, 2007
Burnished Pit Fired Ceramics

Artist’s Statement

Throughout my career as a ceramic artist, I’ve always been intrigued by the effects of fire on my work. Whether employing pit-firing, saggar, or raku firing techniques, the unpredictable, uncontrolled nature of the fire produces work that possesses a uniqueness and individuality of its own. There is something very exciting about uncovering the pit after a firing, marveling at the richness of colors, fire markings, and sometimes spectacular results of this process.

I’ve also been attracted to the “Vessel” as a universal container form and feminine symbol. Folklorist J.C. Cooper writes in The Encyclopedia of Traditional Symbols that the vessel represents “The womb of the Great Mother; shelter; protection; preservation; nourishment; and fertility. It also represents inwardness and inner values.”

Many years ago, while spending time in the Southwest, I became intrigued with burnished (polished) vessels of the Native American Pueblos. The surfaces of their work seemed much warmer, softer and sensual, than traditional glazed pottery. On returning to California, I began to focus on this technique and pretty much stopped using glazes. I also began at this time to employ different firing techniques, such as sawdust, smoke-fire, saggar, and pit firing.

Over the years, I became aware of the sound created by tapping on the burnished low-fired vessel. It resonates much more than glazed high-fired ware. Through research, I discovered that many cultures throughout history have created percussion instruments out of clay that don’t employ the use of skins. One such instrument is the “Udu” drum from Nigeria, Africa which has two openings; one on the shoulder of the vessel, the other at the top. By hitting one hole, air is sent out the second hole creating the sound. Some of my work is based on this drum, and is sculptural.

Since I’m involved in performing Afro-Cuban music which relies heavily on percussion, it seems natural for my claywork to evolve in this direction. I hope you enjoy the work in this exhibit, its unique qualities, and that it provides you with sense of beauty and inspiration!

Joel Bennett, February 2012