Work of the Week – January 26, 2015
by Sadie Barner
“You have to stay on top of everything and continue to create different works, but never forget where you came from.” – Joel Queen
Joel Queen is from Cherokee, NC and is a ninth generation potter. He learned how to make pots in high school. He considers himself self-taught, however he studied at Western Carolina University and received both his BFA and MFA. He knows five styles of pottery including black pottery. Queen believes he has a responsibility to keep Cherokee art alive. He says that you can tell how well a society is doing by the quality of their art. He is trying to keep Cherokee traditions alive and is saddened by its decline. His work blends traditional with contemporary. All of his black pots are hand crafted, hand polished and hand fired and all the tools he uses are hand carved. Queen started out replicated traditional Cherokee pottery, then he started to add his own take on it.
His artwork is beautiful and utilitarian. He has perfected his technique so that his pots can be used to cook on an open fire. He uses a white clay to hand craft the pots, then he incises a pattern into the clay. Next he fires it in a process that turns the clay black. He does this because he likes the black color. He also likes to add pieces of turquoise and coral to his pots.
Pottery is not Queen’s only medium. He also works with marble, soapstone, wood, metal and even jewelry. He set out to be a versatile artist and has succeeded. He’ll take a break from pottery and switch to another medium for months at a time.
Carolina Parakeets is a beautiful example of Queen pottery. It is both elegant and simple. The repeating parakeet pattern uses simple incised lines to create a wonderful representation of the bird. The bird’s eyes a wonderful inlay-ed turquoise stones. The pot is a usable and gorgeous work of art that represents both traditional Cherokee art and Queen’s contemporary style.
Artwork above: Joel Queen, Carolina Parakeets, 2011, Hand-built, incised, low-fired ceramics with turquoise inlay, 7.5 x 8 x 8 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by 2011 Collectors’ Circle member Susan Holden. Permanent Collection. 2011.37.82.