Artist Paul S. Briggs Shares His "Journey"

On Friday, Nov. 18, the Visual Arts Department was thrilled to welcome ceramic artist, sculptor, and educator Paul S. Briggs to EA. An associate professor at The Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston and artist in residence at the Harvard Ceramics Program, Briggs has an extensive background in art education, ceramics, and spiritual leadership. On display in the Crawford Campus Center Gallery through Jan. 10, Briggs's show Journey showcases the artist's vision and process through his inspiring sculptural forms.

Briggs, who is known for exploring issues around social justice through the building processes of pinch-formed vessels and slab-built sculptural forms, describes his pinching process as "being neither additive nor subtractive but expansive." In 2018, he was awarded a Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council Grant for his installation, Cell Personae: The Impact of Incarceration on Black Lives.

"Earlier this year, I finally had the opportunity to view Paul's work at Swarthmore College and was blown away seeing his work in person," Upper School Art Teacher Hilary Hutchison, Hon. said. "All of his pieces are exquisitely crafted and the content of his work is equally compelling. Reading the titles of each piece and listening to Paul talking about his practice, I am struck by the numerous subjects that influence the direction of his work: philosophy, architecture, history, nature, current events and social justice, religion, and poetry."

Upper Schoolers learned more about the powerful messages and inspiration behind Briggs' work on Friday morning in the Carrafiell Family Theater.

"Once you see an image, you can't unsee it," Briggs said while discussing the power of imagery and art. "How many times have you posted a photo [on social media] and then deleted it? It's that idea of getting it just right."

Briggs, who was previously a pastor, also talked a lot about how when he stepped away from leading a congregation and went back to school to pursue art full time. "I was no longer doing that kind of [social justice] work; I was not out in that field anymore," he said when describing his transition. "And I felt like I needed to do something that has to do with [what's] going on in our society...[Like other artists have said], I want to be an artist of my times. I'm not pushing anybody to do work about social justice, but I always tell my students—even at the sketchbook level—do something that has to do with what's going on in your world today."

Following his Upper School talk, the EA community had the opportunity to meet Briggs and experience Journey during a lunchtime artist's reception. A number of students also had the chance to see Briggs' creative process in action as he led workshops for the Honors 3-D Design class and Ceramics class.

"I'm just learning to be present with the work and the process," he told students during his demonstration of artistic technique. "You have to work with the material" and not against it, he explained.

"Paul's work is visually accessible, and given the varied subjects that inspire his practice and work, it was great to hear him address many aspects of the Upper School curriculum and community," Ms. Hutchison said. "I love that he is also a big fan of the same Picasso quote we use often in the Visual Art Department: 'Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working,' as this applies to everything!"

Thank you to the Zozaya family for generously sponsoring Journey.