The “Long Walk” is the concept for my body of work consisting of a group of items that tell a visual story about life and metaphorical transcendence. There are common processes used to make the work with changes in materials, surface, and form that give each sub body of work its individual character and meaning. The vessels I created are based on historical research of funerary urns modified in design, and material to explore what makes a vessel transcend its utilitarian design and become a metaphor for life. Ultimately this exploration led me to look within myself for the answer of how to shape a metaphor for life. I began to understand that it was necessary to provide the viewer a visual content in which they could connect on a personal level.
I had to search for this content in my own inner being for an understanding of art forms that could create a connection with other people. For me, if the content is trivial then no one is going to take it seriously so it had to be very personal in scope. The topics for my thesis exploration had to have real world substance in order for me to create any relevant visual content for my audience. My recollections of the death of my father and my reactions to the continued fight of a friend against breast cancer are examples of topics used to create content my audience can relate to in a personal way.
Rather than focusing on beauty or decoration that has been consistently relegated to the craft art movement, I want my work to draw meaning from this world. The desire to have my art be seen as transcendent from utilitarian to metaphorical representations of life is important to give my work relevance. As an object maker I don’t want people to recognize any similarity between my work and other contemporary ceramic artists. For myself I always find an exhibition boring when I see work that looks like it’s a recycled idea from the rest of the crowd in today’s galleries.
Cultural references in funerary vessels are easily recognized by the public even between eastern and western societies. The recognition of these items is easily achieved but the creation of transcendence in the finished work requires an interaction between visual character of the vessel and the emotional tension that evolves during its creation. To accomplish the perception of transcendence I developed new clay forming processes and material combination that interact to create a personality in the finished art. The work titled “For Lisa” is the best example of this interaction of process and materials to influence the audience. Using an extremely translucent porcelain clay body for its light transmitting qualities and employing my coiling into mold process I created a vessel based installation that exhibits a profound statement of life and death that is focused on the reality women face when fighting breast cancer.
Department, Program, or Center
School for American Crafts (CIAS)
Columbia, Joe, "The Long Walk" (2015). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus