Monday, December 14, 2009

Building Community

The scene at my son Josh’s BFC Thesis show at UNC Asheville this past weekend was a photographer’s dream, with various shaped ceramic pots casting shadows in the warm reflective glow of Josh’s 12 foot tall and 20 foot wide brick wall installation. There was a steady flow of people milling about throughout the 6-10 p.m. exhibit show, titled Building Community.

The bricks were made by Josh and then fired at varying temperatures, creating a rainbow-colored effect. The ones in the wall installation were stamped with the word “individual,” representing the strength and potential they have when joined together as a whole. Bricks with the word “community” stamped on them were signed by Josh and available for people to take home. Still others stamped with the names of those who have had an influence in Josh’s art were stacked in arrangements that held exhibit pieces.

A vacuum cleaner (on shag setting) stood high on a brick stand, looking whimsical and just slightly out of place if you didn’t read the words that accompanied it: “Art doesn’t happen in a vacuum.” Two square plots of clay were displayed. One was growing lush kelly green grass on it and had a ceramic piece shaped like a house off to the side. “Can you mow it with scissors?” I asked my friend Amy.

Eventually Josh’s collage journals displayed on a shelf got spread out on the floor. People leafed through them while munching on cilantro shrimp salad, feta roll-ups, guacamole dip, and more.

I got to shake Neil Woody’s hand and meet his wife Peggy. Neil is the tobacco farmer whose field Josh excavated wild clay from. He seemed to enjoy being a part of the process and seeing what Josh created from that “old dirt” he couldn’t grow anything on.

There was a contingency from Floyd who also attended. Family friend, Karl, sold pieces out of what we called “Karl’s Cabinet.” The idea was to counter the “no touch” art gallery policy and to have some pieces available that could be handled, purchased and taken home without waiting for the week long show to be over.

There were even tricks involving fire for the performance part of the evening. Using a long two-pronged pole (the machine), Josh pulled out a total of 8 pinch bowls from the fired-up kiln that was just outside the gallery door. The bowls came out red hot and translucent and when placed on a board they burst into flames. As one bowl cooled down another arrived, making for a colorful and lively display. The finished piece was purchased by a collector who told my husband that he valued it particularly because he witnessed Josh create it.

After the bowls cooled down, the crowd, who were bundled up in winter coats, hats, and scarves, watched as Josh and another potter poured hot liquid glass into one of the bowls. They expressed their enthusiasm with oohs and ahhs and sometimes applause. The name Josh Circus, coined by Josh’s friend’s little boy who couldn’t pronounce his real name, Josh Copus, never seemed more appropriate. Don’t they need a permit to do this, I was thinking?

Then it was off to the after show dance party at the Flood Warehouse Gallery (across from Josh’s Clay Space studio) to unwind and to celebrate Josh’s hard work and the successful evening. (That’s Josh in the forefront swing dancing.)

Note: Originally posted on December 10, 2006

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