Thursday, April 24, 2014

Junior Review

Hartwick College reviews my art ever year to see if I am headed in the right direction and wether or not I should continue pursuing the studio art major. This spring I had my junior year review, and passed luckily, but I thought I would share the show with all of you who were not able to make it. Below you can see my are of the gallery (all the juniors shared the Foreman Gallery in Anderson Center for the Arts,) and luckily I got a good spot.


The idea of the show was to explore local poverty and food. After traveling so much abroad I wanted to make are about people who had less next door rather than around the world in attempt to make a larger impact on my audience. I created vessels to hold and celebrate food in additions with documenting scenes of poverty just down the street from the college. Many students rarely leave the campus and forget what rough shape upstate New York is in, so I decided to bring it to them.


The shard pile was an attempt to discuss our throw away culture in addition with the loss of tradition when the industry pulled out of upstate New York in the 90's and moved to China. Since 2008 low income housing has been one of the fastest growing housing sectors in the US, curiously the average rent in trailer parks has also been sharply rising since the housing bubble. I learned a lot about the economics of trailer parks in addition with the most common problems both structural and social. 


I am fascinated with the trailer as vessel. They can be quite comfortable homes but also closed off containers to the rest of the world. Trailers have interested architecture and have clear indicators of which decade they were made in by their shape, style, and color.


I was really inspired by John Oles who visited Hartwick while I was in China last semester. I created these bowls with his style in mind. I believe they do an excellent job of creating an interesting visual form and something that feels good to hold and eat out of. 


These coffeepots have a cone filter that pops off the top once you're done brewing. It was inspired by a series I saw on the internet and my love for this caffeinated drink.


This was a self portrait coffee set. It's a mismatched set created from my experiences and various aesthetics I have come across in my travel that I like. Here's a line from my artist statement that explains:

"I wish for my ceramics to be what they are, both tools for the celebration of food, each other, and what we have now­– but also to be pieces of art formed by the careful practice of touch to make surface, color, and form meet my criteria of aesthetics, which are constructed by my experiences. Thus, I am creating an abstract self-portrait intended for others to physically interact with." 


Monday, October 21, 2013

A Chinese Funeral

I was eating lunch in a small village outside of Jingezhen when I heard the faint popping sound of fireworks in the distance.

I looked down at my cup of tea and noticed some ripples on the surface starting to occur every couple of seconds. In the distance I heard the sharp explosions of fireworks getting louder and louder. Seconds slowly ticked by and the volume quickly grew of the sharp cracking sounds of hundreds of little red explosives going off to scare away the demons.  It was now accompanied by deep booms of much larger fireworks and the beat of drums. The large windows began to shudder with each wave of noise crashing against it.

Then the beginning of the parade emerged. A few of us ran out onto the street and watched five or six dozen people walk by, some with instruments, several strands fireworks hung on their body, and many holding up bright colorful banners. It even included a marching band very much dressed like a western marching band. At the height of the march was a casket hung from two pieces of bamboo, it was carried by the four largest men, this was a funeral.

Feel free to click these images for a larger viewing as there is a lot happening in each one.

The Coffin Brought into the Cloud

They were marching along with the coffin on a course for the longest possible path through the town, which is in the chinese tradition of a funeral. Every so often they would stop, put down a box of fireworks the size of an oven, and set them off launching bright colorful explosions into the sky matching the color of the banners they carried. The group would kneel each time the largest fireworks were set off for respect and avoiding to get hit by burning phosphorous.

I felt like I was in a movie, but I also felt much more connected than just sitting in a theater. Documenting religious ceremony is always tricky in terms of ethics, but clearly this parade wanted to be seen and celebrated. This funeral was joyous and also recognizing loss, I would like mine to be like this, but I prefer the spread of my cremated ashes or sky burial instead of tomb at the end.

The Fireworks Set Off


The Parade Continues
They marched up our side of the river and then back down the other where I was able to get some clear photos of the whole thing. a massive mound of clothing and blankets belonging to the dead rest on the bank of the river. The friends of the man poured fuel on the pile and lit them on fire. This stark celebration life and death really surprised me. It was loud, it was happy, it was very much marking the ending of something and the beginning of another.

Burning the Clothes

The Band

The group began to theorize who this person was, we thought possibly it was an important official of the town. We began talking to two elderly men hanging out on the river with us and they explained this man was not a local official but a beloved person who influenced the town for the best, and his children wanted to see him off well.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Making Porcelain

The group headed over to Sanbao village to explore the historic and still used method of making porcelain. We visited the mine featured in the film Never Sorry and also one the sources for the porcelain  for Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds project. After a long and bumpy drive we arrived at the mine.


Below is the mine cart. They actually mine into the mountain upwards. The blast a little then push the rock around and it falls right into the cart -pretty smart in my opinion. When they exhaust the porcelain above they will start digging below, which is a bit more difficult. Apparently the guy who works at this mine is super nice, but he wasn't around the day we visited.


The porcelain is wheeled out and dumped in this massive pile.


It's then taken to a water hammer and pounded into a fine dust.


The water hammer had some really interesting details. First it's powered by water, some are now powered by gas or electricity, but this one is traditional. Second, in the second image it is clearer to see that there are bamboo shoots directing water onto the  axel to lubricated it. The wheel turns spinning an axel with small fingers that push down the back of the hammer, the hammer then drops and pounds the porcelain rock with it's own weight. These hammers shake the ground.

You can see it in action, click here.



The dust is washed, put through a series of settling pools, then scooped out, dried, and formed into these bricks for sale. You may wonder why they use this process in a day of technology and desire for efficiency but the chinese prefer this method to keep consistent clay for antique replicas, but also keeping the clay up to it's historic quality (good or bad.)


This is us walking around on the dusty roads...


Peaking into the Kitchen


This is just one of my favorite photos that I took two weeks ago. I peaked in through the door and got a bunch of photos of this kitchen. The cooks never noticed me because they were so busy. The Chinese method of cooking food is very different from America or most other places. Food is cooked in a wok for maybe a minute at extremely high heat and then the dish is ready. When you order food in a restaurant here it comes out in under five minutes. It's such a drag when I get back to the states and wait the standard amount of time there.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Day 5 of Being Sick

I open this with the statement that I am not seriously sick. However, I am exhausted, and being sick in Asia is a who new level difficulty than at home. There has been quite the cold that has been whipping through the group since Shanghai four weeks ago. Approximate 8 out of 11 students have had it and some of the staff is getting it. It's a really intense fever and aches the first day or two, then a persistent runny nose, cough, and exhaustion for many days after.

Today I went to the Chinese hospital, which was a complete adventure. I was feeling simply exhausted and seeing as it was about day 5 or so of this nonsense I figured it would be best to go to the hospital and try to figure out what this is. I was in and then out in about 25 minutes, and the total cost of seeing a doctor and blood work was $6.04USD. Eric (deputy director of The Pottery Workshop?) was kind enough to drive me.

We walked in the large concrete fecal smelling building and registered at the front desk, then walked immediately to the doctors office. As we entered the room the doctor finished his cigarette, blew the smoke out the window, and sat down at his desk. I joined him sitting on a little white wobbly stool, and he had me put an old fashion glass thermometer in my armpit for 5 minutes. Eric and the doctor chatted in Chinese about my symptoms and other members of the group that had/have this illness. After a few minutes my temperature was 36.9C, which is totally fine, a fever is 38C or so. I said I wanted blood work done anyways to try to identify this.

We went to another room full of nurses and chairs with fixtures to hold IV's, this is really popular way of administering medicine in China, usually it's just saline solution. I sat at the reception counter layed my arm across the table had blood taken out immediately. Then we went to what looked like a counter at a pharmacy, handed my vile of blood to a guy wearing a graphic t-shirt, cargo shorts, and flip flops and was handed back this paper 30 seconds later with results:

It was explained to me that the first number listed as WBC (white blood cell count?) was normal so it was probably a virus, if higher than normal probably an infection. He said I could have chinese medicine that taste awful or equally effective: go home and rest. I didn't hang out to ask question because the people in line behind me held a baby with a bloody face and x-rays of his head waiting to be read. The baby seemed in good spirits though. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Pottery Workshop

Through the WVU program we are working at The Pottery Workshop's amazing studios, and have their resources available at our finger tips. It's a really great pairing of two programs and resources. We're being housed in a hostel but we have the nicest rooms so it's really more like staying in a hotel. When I wake up in the morning and look out the window sometimes I see this:


It's great, we're really spoiled rotten: consistent electricity and hot water, clean simple rooms, a western toilet (I'm a big fan of the squat toilets though,) AC, and somewhat comfortable beds. The hostel has a very cool lobby filled with ceramics, a pool table, an over priced cafe/bar, and couches. They even have a cat that just had kittens:


This is my roommate Kaleb (of Canada) and our good friend and fellow artist Huang Fei who is famous for his blue and white painting on porcelain:


We're in the east end of Jingdezhen and our whole situation (hostel, studio, and all,) is wedged between two large roads -kind of like highways- that are 4-6 lanes wide and going at 30mph. We kind of take over four city blocks and have a narrow road that runs through the middle. Our hostel is on one side of this road with a big stone gate (known as the front gate,) and the restaurant where we eat two meals a day is at the other end (known as the back gate.) It takes about 5-8 minutes to walk across the block. 

A thirty second walk from the Hostel down this narrow road that cuts through the block is where we have art history, which is in a nice classroom on the second floor above a the Pottery Workshop Gallery in the building on the left below.


Also, next to this building is other galleries and a cafe with excellent coffee and cheap beer at 6 yuan or 98 cents for a liter. It's also 3% in alcohol, and it's damn refreshing. It's a great place to hang out and meet other ceramic artist from all over the planet. 

If you walk five minutes further down the road you reach our amazing studio:



Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Moon Festival

One year, long ago, ten suns rose in the sky causing great heat and destruction on the Earth. Hou Yi, a human of immense strength shot down nine of the suns and left one up for light. An immortal admiring Hou Yi gifted him an elixir with the power to give Hou Yi the strength to live forever. However, he did not drink it because he was deeply in love with Chang'e, and did not wish to live without her.

For the Mid-Autumn Festival, or the Moon Festival, our group decided to go out onto a lake on the outskirts of town late at night to admire the moonlight. After dinner we rented a bus for the group and drove twenty minutes to the locations. It was a park with a man made lake, hundreds of people were there lighting off small fire crackers and sparklers, eating food, drinking beer, and chatting while they watched their friends on the boats out in the lake. The Americans made their presence known by bringing some major fireworks that set off all the car alarms.

Hou Yi strength greatly inspired many people, he quickly accumulated apprentices, one of which was (super evil) Feng Meng who knew his secret of the elixir. One day, when Hou Yi was hunting, Feng Meng broke into his house to steal the elixir. Chang'e was home and knew that he could easily overpower her for the elixir so she drank the elixir.

The lake was far more pleasant at night. On the murky water I could see dead fish and trash floating on the surface, and transmission towers ran through the middle of the lake. But the buildings were beautifully lit and after about twenty minutes the smell of the water did not really bother you. The boats were a step up from paddle boats both in size and power. They had small electric engines that when running smelt like a burning toaster. Nine of us crammed into one boat, then me and two others into another boat. Our boats collided several times almost tipping but the large amount of alcohol consumed numbed the terror of falling into such disgusting water.

High above the full moon shone brightly, with wisdom and clarity, undisturbed by our rowdiness.

Great power flowed through Chang'e as she became immortal. She flew into the sky away from her husband. Still deeply in love with her husband so she went to the closest place immortals can reside to humans -the moon. When Hou Yi came back hunting he learned what happened and became deeply saddened. He began offering cakes to the moon where his wife lives every year on the day that she became immortal. The villagers learned of Hou Yi tragic story and became sympathetic, over the years they too began to participate and make offerings on the same day.

On our way back I looked out the window of the bus. First there was a police car. Then a scooter on it's side and a crowd of on lookers. Then there was a shoe. Another fifty feat down was a body of a middle age woman lying on her back in the highway. Her body seemed undisturbed, but her shirt was open from the use of a defibrillator, she was clearly dead.