Pamela Joseph & Kevin Snipes
July 13 – August 1, 2021
About the Exhibition
Masks, Veils & Headgear
In 2019, I began creating sculptures of masks and headdresses painted on layers of plexiglass with acrylics and mixed media transfers. The work explores the positive power and celebration of the carnival in our lives.
Masks and headdresses are powerful symbols in a wide variety of cultures and groups. By putting on a mask and becoming someone else, the participant enters a sphere that investigates power, identity, and oftentimes gender. Originally inspired by strong women personalities, I began to realize that these “disguises” have a larger significance. As I continued exploring into 2020, and every detail of our lives was overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the masks in turn projected an alternate meaning of protection and resilience. The sculptures became an exploration of beauty as radical thought. Although some of the pieces contain images of shields and helmets, it is the flower elements, those fragile essences that manifest as the resilient warriors on the metaphorical battlefield.
This body of work takes cues from fashion design and features metonyms for cultural resistance to create a celebratory iconography—looking both to the diversity of human cultures and to our shared futures. Drag queens, with their over-the-top make-up and costumes, create masquerades of gender identity that consistently challenge what being feminine means. African artists and tribes have long used masks and apparel to commemorate birth and death in their relationship to the cosmos and to the environment. For the Maya Indians, masks and headdresses were symbols of their gods and a physical way of representing spirits and intimidating their enemies. Mardi Gras Indians create colorfully designed suits and headgear that reflect both their vital musical history and the systemic inequalities that remain prevalent in society. These examples are a few of the inspirations that I drew on to construct the sculptures in “Radical Beauty.” There is no one isolated culture but a blend of spirits that exists in all of us.
My work is based in the combination of narrative imagery on hand built ceramic forms, but primarily I think of myself as a storyteller. The stories I tell are open-ended investigations of difference and otherness. They are ways in which I can explore the underlying emotional and psychological issues of discrimination. I am interested in what happens when people who are different come together.
One aspect of the work is that the narratives I portray encompass different sides, so that every angle of the piece becomes the front, or protagonist. My approach to working with these ideas is somewhat subversive—both the intimate scale and the jewel-like surfaces that are hallmarks of my work act as misdirection. The viewer must dig through to get to the underlying kernel of the work. I’m very interested in pushing the boundaries in a direction that reveals more of the unease below the surface.
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More About the Artists
Pamela Joseph is a multi-media artist who addresses ideas of feminist critique and socio-political issues with a sense of humor and incisiveness. Her work was described as “well-executed, powerful and edgy” by the Colorado Council on the Arts, who awarded her a Visual Arts Fellowship in 2001. She was subsequently selected as a Visiting Artist at the American Academy in Rome in 2003 and 2004. Francis M. Naumann Fine Arts in New York represented Joseph from 2007 until the gallery’s closing in 2019.
Joseph has exhibited nationally and internationally in locations including New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Barcelona, and Beijing. Her work is in the collections of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, Indiana; Colorado University Art Museum, Boulder; the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque; the National Art Museum of China, Beijing; the School of Art and Design at Alfred University, Alfred, New York; and Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut; among others.
Joseph was born in New Haven, Connecticut, and maintained a studio in New York for many years. For the past 30 years, she has lived and worked in Aspen, Colorado, sharing a studio with her partner of 27 years, artist Robert Brinker.
Kevin Snipes is an American artist born in Philadelphia and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He earned a BFA in ceramics and drawing from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1994 and concluded graduate studies at the University of Florida in 2003. He works primarily in ceramics, blurring the boundary between craft and art. Snipes combines techniques of narrative figure drawing, text, and hand-formed porcelain constructions to create objects that can be seen as multi-layered paintings.
Kevin has participated in many artist residency programs, often maintaining an itinerant existence. Through both national and international residencies including The Clay Studio, Watershed Center for Ceramic Arts, New Castle, Maine, and Wesleyan College in Georgia, he has allowed a sense of place to augment his sense of identity and contribute to the dialog of his work. He has exhibiting nationally and internationally, including recent solo exhibitions at Konkling Gallery at Minnesota State University, Mankato and Plinth Gallery, Denver.