Joe Hancock  photographer

I join storytelling and anthropology with clay sculpture to explore the relationship between creativity and intellectuality. Consequently, when I grapple with data addressing humanity's cultural and historical fabric, my mind translates ethnographic analysis into conceptual visual and performing art.

I find clay sculpture as my analytical tool compelling because Spirit, my ancestors, my muse, and my life experiences insist that I look beyond the world's visible boundaries, particularly when my hands touch clay.  The Unseen encourages me to question what I see and how I view myself in relation to others. My muse advocates for my delving into the continental and diasporic African cultural aesthetic to witness the complex vision humanity is creating for itself as we embrace the twenty-first century. 

I have several ongoing series.  In pondering how to use clay as cloth and cloth as clay, I have set out on a captivating journey to "sew" ceramic quilts to explore these bed coverings as domestic artifacts that historically Black women frequently created to document significant familial moments.  African Americans of Gullah/Geechee heritage, who hang glass bottles, particularly cobalt blue bottles, in trees to mesmerize ancestors and capture evil spirits, inspire my “bottle trees.”  My akua’ma figures call to the Ghanaian Asante ideas of beauty and fertility to gain insight into the symbolic imagery that enriches continental and diasporic African women’s lives.  My masks, like African masks, do not hide or deceive.  Instead, they reveal diasporic and continental African people's history, stories, emotions, and endless possibilities.  As a result, my sculpture challenges viewers to "read" the narrative in each piece and to dismantle any boundary that segregates imagination from the rigorous analysis.

As an anthropologist/artist, I intend for my work to entice viewers to celebrate and embrace their inherent magnificence. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Brian Birlauf photographer