FOCUS ON ARTWORK
Since 2003, Joan has created an entirely new body of figurative work in carved clay, fired into "terra cotta", and occasionally painted with thin layers of paint or cast into bronze. This work shares an appealing blockiness and solidity, as well as an unusual blending with language and culture. By referencing Yiddish poems, sayings, and prayers for the themes and titles, Joan's work offers a window into a thousand year old culture that was almost eradicated in the last century. Our modern shared American civilization is enriched by this exposure and by the re-establishment of some of what was lost. (Gary Faigin juried work of hers into shows in 2004 & 2011.)
Carving in clay lends the work an air of carved wood in terms of forms, and begins to evoke the highly sophisticated adopted folk art style of Elie Nadelman (1882-1946). The direction Joan is following with works in progress and future work planned is to take up where Nadelman left off in terms of abstracting the human form with simplicity and with exuberence. Joan's own creed has always been: "economy, vitality, and clarity" of form. However, elegance is less important than charm ("kheyn") in her work, and economy more important than realism. She choses to depict connection, affection, and solidarity among her sculpted figures.
Nice things assorted people said to Joan at the recent Port Townsend opening which included her sculpture called "Di tfile di shtile" (The quiet prayer).
It has so much positive emotion.
I like the blockiness, like a wood carving.
So much emotion. Compassion depicted. That is really hard to do and really rare.
People are "engaged" with each other. Connected.
It's nice to see your family (gesturing at work).
Like people who have been married for a long, long time.
Communicate by gesture, by propinquity.
Nice vibe. People are really together.
Like that it is not perfect. All the little imperfections of life.
Joan’s work mixes references to art history, cultural history, and contemporary life. These include ancient Egyptian sculpture, cubism, the mid-20th century Elie Nadelman, and modern Japanese figures carved and painted in wood. Her knowledge of the physical processes of sculpting: clay modeling, mold making, casting, fabrication, and carving all contribute to re-invigorate her art as she sets herself new challenge after challenge. There is a respect for materials in how she keeps her work surfaces and cares for her tools. She has long held stated goals of “economy, vitality, and clarity”, and since 2003 has wanted to learn to carve as well as she can draw. Her calligraphic line quality is particularly evident in the incised work in clay reliefs. Exploring new techniques and materials only adds to her base.
CREATIVE PROCESS AND TENACITY
Joan’s images come from many sources, particularly from observing people in ordinary “poses” such as play or reading. She makes sketches on paper and in clay, and holds onto ideas for what are sometimes long periods of incubation. Associating a pose with a fragment of song or poem for a title allows for a longer period of rumination. When building a sculpture up, she uses internal ribs to grow the forms to their final volume. When carving, she uses external curves to define and balance the mass. She makes use of templates, carbon paper, Xeroxing, pointing and piercing to fix or to enlarge contours. She prefers to measure distance(s) by eye, and can enlarge by eye from a small maquette to a larger one without mechanical measurements. She changes the height and orientation of the sculpture stand frequently to change her viewpoint, and takes photographs of each stage. This has facilitated learning when to stop working to avoid losing the essence of the abstraction. She uses symmetry in order to choose where to deviate from symmetry, and confer more liveliness. She keeps a written journal of her goals, questions, and notes on how things are solved. She works clay with a limited number of simple tools and knives, including a prized wooden “crooked knife” she found in a Parisian art supply store to complement her standard linoleum cutter. This shape of knife is sometimes still used in the NW by Native carvers.
Joan usually works on at least three sculptural projects at a time: one almost finished, one midway, and one just begun. This approach helps her to “finish” things and also to keep some excitement about starting something new. The surfaces range from smooth to rough, plain to soft colors, reflective to non reflective.
In order to understand how Joan works, it is necessary to grasp the amount of planning, preparation, and simple labor involved in moving and manipulating her materials. The original choices to work in larger amounts of heavy clay and masonry materials necessitated an overhead hoist, and a system of wheeled sculpture stands and stools. She likens this kind of necessary planning to cooking on a limited number of burners. The incubation of ideas is yet a different kind of process, often spanning several years while searching out the various elements. Joan’s productivity in the studio and at home wastes little time, but is often composed of many, many patient steps.