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Dancing the line between tradition and conceptuality

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Christina Stock Photo Ready for transport to the Roswell Museum and Art Center.

‘A Splinter Forever’ exhibit shows the works of Roswell Artist-in-Residence Qwist Joseph

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Usually, the lecture for Roswell Artist-in-Residence exhibits are on Fridays. RAiR Qwist Joseph’s exhibit, “A Splinter Forever,” is an exception and will be on Saturday, Jan. 26 at 5:30 p.m. in the Marshall and Winston Gallery of the Roswell Museum and Art Center, 1011 N. Richardson Ave. The members’ preview and reception for the artist follows the lecture. The exhibit will be on display until March 10.

For Joseph, his thought process travels through object creation, collection and composition, working intuitively to reveal the poetic nature of how something transitions from an idea to the physical world. He then freezes these ephemeral moments in permanent materials like ceramic and bronze to create a tension between the past, present and future. This record sheds light on the effects of life, encouraging vulnerability and self-reflection.

It is always an honor stepping into the studio of one of our RAiR participants. Joseph’s studio on the compound is orderly with the typical artist work chaos that speaks of an upcoming exhibit.

It turns out that Joseph’s place he grew up is only eight hours from Roswell. “I am from Fort Collins, Colorado,” he said. “I was introduced to art early on, growing up, my grandfather was a painter, sculptor and art professor; my dad is a sculptor and has a bronze foundry in Colorado.”

According to Joseph, he had visited New Mexico often accompanying his father with whom he worked since he was a child. “We would often bring things to Santa Fe, and he did some of his art projects, which would end up in New Mexico. It’s always been a special place to me and coming back now as an adult is really exciting. Something about it is really magical,” Joseph said. He considers himself lucky that he had been accepted at the residency the first time he applied.

Asked how he chose his profession as an artist and if he ever had a rebellious phase, Joseph said, “It was in my life, in my house. I was pretty young, working for my dad and helping him. Coming time when it came to decide what I would do with my life, it was clear I’d follow them. My biggest rebellious phase was when I switched from traditional sculpture background to ceramics in college, so I kind of (began) studying traditional modernistic sculpture when I took a class in ceramics in college and just got really consumed by the magic of the material. I was interested in making pottery vessels and I still came back to sculpture, maybe in a more conceptual way. Ceramics was my main material, but I try to utilize all my bag of tools that I have from growing up around casting and these more modernistic ideas.”

Joseph received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Colorado State University and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Though moving toward ceramic sculptures, Joseph’s core belief is in the mastering of his art that was taught to him by his father. “I think people really respect something well-made,” he said. “I feel like it’s a good way to put the conceptual part into people’s life. Not tricking them, but saying, ‘anything goes.’ There is a loss of tradition of mastery I think in some regards. It’s something that I respect and try to keep with a contemporary narrative. I found myself dancing that line. I am really interested in the hierarchy of materials and those really old ideas as part of contemporary narrative. Together they can be a much richer experience for me.

“One of my pulls toward ceramics was that I was interested in really old inherent human creativity; how early we found that people discovered this material and created things. I certainly don’t make traditional, functional items anymore, but that’s always a part of that material. It’s in the conversation when they discover it’s a ceramic thing, that’s like the foundation — what that material is. It has this really interesting layering of information,” Joseph said.

In 2016, he was selected as an emerging artist by Ceramics Monthly and awarded a summer residency at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana.

Most recently, he was living in southern California where he taught sculpture and ceramics at the University of Redlands and Chaffey College.

Joseph has shown nationally and internationally and last year was commissioned to create public works for the Davidson Sculpture Garden in Riverside, California and the New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. He was selected as a 2019 National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts Emerging Artist.

Joseph has used this time in Roswell to “simultaneously excavate the pain of my past and dream about my future,” he said.

In June, he will marry his partner of 12 years, and the weight of this upcoming milestone has only deepened his need for quiet contemplation.

“I never made my work about her and us. It was curious that I didn’t do that very often. So, I am making this whole exhibition about her,” Joseph said.

The exhibit explores his relationships over time, examining the challenges and beauty inherent in uniting two distinct lives.

“There is this idea of forever that is in my thoughts a lot,” Joseph said. “All the materials I am drawn to are those permanent materials — forever comes in there. This idea to look inward in my work and to bring it outward. It has been a reflective time.

“She is in California finishing school, so we’ve been kind of bouncing back and forth doing long distance. And I have been here in this endless daze, missing her. I can work all day. It has been a really introspective time for me. Coming into this transmission called marriage. It’s authentically renewed and refreshed,” Joseph said.

Asked how he is planning the exhibit, Joseph said, “For me, it’s all about the experience in the studio and as much as I can try to transfer that energy into the gallery space. I think is a real tendency — especially for ceramic objects — they lose their energy in the sterile gallery environment. That is something I work with a lot, displaying and creating specific pedestals that speak to where the idea started or came from, sometimes referencing the studio and action of creating and then also thinking about that full life of a piece. From its conception to its display to ending in a home or some kind of domestic space.”

A Splinter Forever is a culmination of this search for a more honest and considered existence.

“I mostly work abstractly,” Joseph said. “More so in the past couple of years. I’ve been having these molded objects that are in the world, in a stage between real and fake and what is art and what is an object in the world.”

After finishing his residence, Joseph is planning to return to California and to pursue another passion of his, teaching sculpture and ceramics education. “My goal since graduate school is to get into academia,” he said. “I was an adjunct professor in California for a couple of years before coming here. I feel really engaged when I am working and teaching it. I feel it makes me honest in what I truly believe in and what to relay to the next generation of artists. I feel it really keeps me on my toes and honest.”

For more information about the artist, visit qwistjoseph.com or his new account instagram.com/qwistjoseph.

For more information about the exhibit, visit roswell-nm.gov/308/Roswell-Museum-Art-Center or call 575-624-6744.