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click to enlarge 108 Dancing Ladies (detail), clay, unfired work in progress
  • 108 Dancing Ladies (detail), clay, unfired work in progress

According to Joy Brown, 108 Dancing Ladies is an attempt to capture the spirit of intuitive connectedness and realizing the importance of being part of a group, transcending race, age, and culture.

“Remember what it feels like to squish mud between your toes?” asks Brown “Pack mud pies or dig in the warm sand at the beach? That’s this feeling I have when my hands are in wet clay: It is the source of creativity for me. The dialogue begins between me and the clay. The forms emerge. The ideas arise. I have always loved playing with clay. While growing up in Senriyama, Japan, my brother Jimmy and I would pull a red wagon up the road to an exposed cliff of clay. We would dig clay, load the wagon full, and pull it down the hill, back home. I remember making tiny vessels and one little crude box. Then we left them to dry out in the sun. Basically I’m doing the same thing now.”

Joy Brown has worked with clay for over 35 years, making sculptural forms and ceramic wall murals that measure as large as 20 by 5 feet. For the past decade, Brown has also been working in bronze to make life-sized figures for display in public places. Her work grew out of her childhood experiences and apprenticeships in Japan, including one with a 13th-generation master of traditional Japanese ceramics. There Brown learned the importance of process, where thinking drops away and energy takes over. She adopted the aesthetic of “shibui,” which she describes as a complex form of beauty at once serene, simple, powerful, and sophisticated. Each summer, still rooted in the Japanese tradition, Brown fires pieces at her Kent studio, surrounded by a community of dozens of emerging and established artists who take turns tending the week-long firing in her 30-foot-long anagama tunnel kiln.

“The figures have evolved over the past decades from abstract, organic forms to this human like form,” says Brown. “The clay forms are hollow, pinched and paddled, made of hearty clay from Georgia, fired with wood. The soft clay colors and dusting of ash on the unglazed pieces are an integral part of each piece. They hold a spirit of how I’d like to be, in relaxed awareness. They help me stay in contact with that part of myself that is open, quiet, clear, connected, and whole.”

Brown’s sculpture has been exhibited in galleries and museums in the US, Europe, Asia, and featured in publications including the New York Times, Art News, Ceramics Monthly, and House and Garden. In 1998, she and Denis Cooper founded Still Mountain Center, cross-cultural educational arts organization in Kent, CT.
Brown will be exhibiting her ceramics at the Art Within Gallery and Studio in Kent, CT, October 10 through November 15. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, October 10 from 3-6pm. (860) 927-4946.

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