Hello, My name is Steven Cheek and I am one of the founders of Southern Crossings Pottery Festival (SXPF). Over the next few weeks and months I will be writing a bit about each of the artists that will be a part of our upcoming festival, March 1 & 2, 2019. We hope that these small featurettes will give you a better insight into the lives and work of these amazing artists. To begin let me introduce you to the lodestar of SXPF, Jason Bige Burnett.
Jason Bige Burnett is a true Louisville original. Like others in that marketing campaign, Jason was born and raised in Louisville. After receiving a BFA in ceramics and BAs in both printmaking and graphic design from Western Kentucky University, he continued his formal arts education as a core fellow at Penland School of Crafts and as an artist in residence at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. It was during his time at Arrowmont that Jason wrote Graphic Clay. This book, along with his exposure at Penland and Arrowmont, catapulted him into the clay community workshop circuit. It also placed him onto the radar of collectors and hosts of the national markets who look out for the up and coming creators in our field.
Jason has an intense passion for community and community building. Jason saw a need and opportunity during his time in Gatlinburg at Arrowmont; tapping into his experience as a summer camp counselor, Jason created the Ceramic Surface Forum which grew and expanded into Pentaculum, a week long retreat at Arrowmont that features creatives from six different disciplines. Pentaculum has grown to include over 100 visiting artists and writers who come from all different stages of their careers. This invitational experience allows artists to work, network, socialize and relax in Gatlinburg during the quiet of early January each year.
After 10 years away, Jason returned to Louisville with his husband, Michael Hale, and moved back into his childhood home. As he looked around the city for places to exhibit and see contemporary ceramics, he was surprised by the limited options available. After meeting with myself and Amy Chase, the three of us decided to pursue our shared vision of creating a market here that could rival in time the best of the national ceramic markets. With this Southern Crossings Pottery Festival was born.
Jason’s love of his community and his desire to give back mirrored something that we shared as well and it became an important part of SXPF’s mission- to give back to the community in some important way each year. Because of the link between pottery and food, it was an ideal fit for us to involve Empty Bowls and to channel our community outreach towards efforts to end hunger. Read Jason’s article “Taking Form: Creating Kentucky’s Premier Pottery Festival” on the SXPF blog for a more detail on how this festival came into fruition.
Jason’s work as a maker combines his childhood love of cartoons, bold imagery and bright colors with his love of Dolly Parton, drag culture and appalachian kitsch. Working with an earthenware clay and a process of layering imagery, vivid colors and touches of bling, Jason brings a unique and modern take on the utilitarian vessel. On the surface the imagery is bright, playful and repetitive, working as a repeating pattern like the wallpaper on a child’s wall, however at closer look the imagery challenges the viewer to dig deeper, to see the subtle innuendo of two kissing roosters, the glam of bold lipstick kisses and the humor and desire in the repetition of “daddies”. Jason’s playful tongue in cheek critique of modern domestic life allows for us to envision a different modern family, one that is inclusive, that embraces those that are often seen as on the fringes of society. This past year, Jason had the amazing experience of completing a residency at the Belger Crane Yard in Kansas City, Missouri and at The Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. These opportunities have allowed him to play and explore new directions for his work. We are all looking forward to seeing how these experiences will manifest into his work in the months ahead.
To see more of Jason’s work visit www.mrbennyspotshop.com