BRETT KERN

Untied States

BECAUSE I CAN”T SING OR DANCE:
SCULPTURES BY BRETT KERN

October 8th – 29th 2016

Brett Kern is a sculptor and arts professor who hails from Elkins, West Virginia. Working with clay in a variety of methods he fuses a love of history, nostalgia and science into his artwork.

An example of these influences combining would be his series of ceramic “inflatable” dinosaur sculptures. At first glance they appear to be toys reminiscent of your childhood, their plumpness and rippled edges express realistic tension of the “air” pushing to escape. His craftsmanship and attention to detail is so strong, only the weight of the object gives it away. To top it off, a very unique aspect of the ceramic sculptures is the similarity in evolution the clay undergoes to fossilization of bones: A physical object is covered in a material that over time transforms into a rock.

In addition to his inflatable sculptures Brett has been creating a collection of sculptures he calls the “Hellenistic Series”. These sculptures are inspired by well known Greek statues Brett reinterprets into a modern context. The death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. marks the beginning of the Hellenistic period and a transition period for artists. “I admire them because the sculptors of the time moved away from the romanticized god-like figures of the Classical Greek Period and started to make sculptures of everyday people, in sometimes inglorious situations, warts and all,” Brett says.

Making its debut into Brett’s Hellenistic series is a new ceramic sculpture titled “Rocky At Rest” which is based on the Greek bronze sculpture “Terme Boxer” (Boxer At Rest circa 323-21 B.C.). This sculpture brought on many challenges (See Interview) to create but he captured the essence of both men and their historical standings for a fantastic result. The title of this exhibit is “Because I Can’t Sing or Dance” which is a response from Rocky Balboa, in the first movie, when asked “Why do you want to fight?”

Born and raised in Pennsylvania, Brett Kern began his higher education at California University of Pennsylvania in the fall of 2003 as a Graphic Design Major. However, one year into college, after discovering a love for clay, Brett decided to switch his focus to ceramics. In the spring of 2007, he graduated from CALU with a Bachelors of Fine Arts and a focus in Ceramics. Brett immediately transitioned to West Virginia University to begin his graduate studies. West Virginia would have to wait a semester though. In the fall of 2007 Brett studied overseas as part of the WVU/Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute exchange program in Jingdezhen, PRC. In 2010 Brett received his Masters of Fine Arts from WVU.

With school out of the way, it was time for Brett to head west to begin his career as a professional artist. What better place to start that career than the ceramics mecca that is Montana? Upon graduating from WVU, Brett was awarded a long term Artist-In-Residence position at the Red Lodge Clay Center in Red Lodge, MT. The appointment lasted from August 2010 until August 2011.

However, Brett was unable to resist the siren’s song of West Virginia and returned in 2011 to begin his teaching career at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, WV. In addition to teaching at D&E, Brett also teaches classes at the Randolph County Community Arts Center in Elkins and at the Augusta Heritage Center of D&E.
While maintaining his teaching career, Brett continues to show nationally and regionally. Taylor Books in Charleston, WV, The White Room in Thomas, WV and the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, CA all display his art. Brett received Best in Show in the HxWxD juried sculpture show at the Rosewood Arts Center in Kettering, OH and has work in the 5th annual Beyond the Brickyard show at the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, MT.

Tell us a bit about your work, career, school, city, ideas, etc
I started college as a Graphic Design Major in 2003. In my second semester, I enrolled in my first ceramics class and was hooked. From then on, I was in the studio constantly making pottery and working. Upon graduation, I attended Graduate School at West Virginia University in 2007 in order to get my Masters of Fine Arts. It was then that I was first introduced to Mold-Making and Slip-Casting. To this day, the majority of my work is made using these methods. After completing Graduate School, I moved out to Red Lodge, Montana to spend a year as a long-term artist-in-residence at the Red Lodge Clay Center. From there, I was hired as a professor at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia where I continue to teach. It wasn’t until I moved back to West Virginia then that I began making the inflatable dinosaurs for which I am most known.

I’ve loved dinosaurs since I was a small child and that passion has never waned. The inflatable dinosaurs are an attempt at showcasing my childhood memories, and these playful objects, as permanent and valuable things. They also mimic the fossilization process in that the toy is covered with a material and then transformed into rock. In that way, I am attempting to fossilize the aspects of our culture most important to me.

What is more important – Content or technique?
There is a large emphasis on ‘craft’ in the pottery world in which I was brought up. I am effected by this still and I do believe that having a piece that it well-made and technically proficient is greatly important. I tend to still be able to enjoy work on some level when it is well-crafted even if devoid of content. However, thoughtful work that shows shoddy craftsmanship is usually a deal breaker for me.

How many hours do your pieces generally take to complete?
This, of course, is the question I’m asked the most and the question in which I am worst at answering. I switch between multiple projects daily and hardly pay attention to how much time has elapsed. Large sculptures probably end up taking 50+ hours. Small dinosaurs are relatively expedient (30 minutes total) to make however the molds for each kind of dinosaur take considerably longer to complete.

What are some of the responses you hear in regards to your work?
The response I hear most often is that someone can’t believe the dinosaurs are not really plastic. I never set out to be a trompe l’oeil artist and I thought they were obviously glazed instead of being plastic. The fact remains nevertheless, that I am somewhat tricking people.

What is currently influencing you that might surprise people?
Beanie Babies. Currently, I am working on a piece about the Beanie Baby Murder of Elkins, WV where a man was killed over a Beanie dispute. In addition, the marketing for Beanie Babies was incredible and through some research, I’ve been able to apply some concepts to my own marketing.

Describe your work environment – Music, TV, Movies, things you drink/smoke, time of day etc
Podcasts, audiobooks and music, I go through so many of them on a weekly basis. If I’m assembling dinosaurs or glazing I’ll usually listen to a podcast or book. If I’m sculpting, I’ll put on music so I can lose myself in my work a little bit more. If it happens that I’m doing something that will allow me to sit in one place for a while, I’ll watch a movie or football. Unfortunately, I make art at my college which prohibits me from drinking. I’d be lying though if I said I didn’t have a glass of bourbon or two during the summer when students aren’t around. Never during the school year though.

Any kiln explosions/tragedies you care to share?
Though he didn’t explode, Rocky came with his fair share of tragedies. I spent about 4 hours on Rocky the first day. On the second day, I found out that Rocky had fallen over and onto the ground. I spent the second day building him back up again. Then, Rocky fell over again. So I spent the third day putting him back together. Those were very stressful days but I finally gave Rocky the supports he needed and it didn’t happen again. Then, Rocky’s base developed quite a few cracks as it dried. I was scared it wouldn’t make it into the kiln and it would take the legs with it. Therefore, I preemptively sawed off his legs. The base did NOT make it into the kiln and had to be rebuilt. Luckily, the legs were safe. The Rocky sculpture had plenty of triumphs and tragedies but like a certain fictional boxer says, “[Life] is about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

Any plans to work with different materials – bronze, etc?
Not currently, though I have been tempted by rubber and resin recently. We’ll see what happens.

If you could choose only one, would you rather be thought of as a great artist or a nice person?
That’s a tough call. I’m not sure anyone thinks of me now as either a great artist or nice person. I guess my answer might be great artist over nice person. I’ve just put so much more time and practice into being an artist.


AVAILABLE ARTWORK

Inflatable Carnotaurus Baby Blue
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 7 x 7 x 5 Inches
Edition: Edition of 400 - Stamped with signature
Price: $115
Availability:
Inflatable Parasaurolophus Yellow
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 7 x 7 x 5 Inches
Edition: Open - Stamped with signature
Price: $115
Availability:
Inflatable T-Rex Caledon (Small)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 7 x 7 x 5 Inches
Edition: Open - Stamped with signature
Price: $115
Availability:
Inflatable Triceratops Burgundy (Small)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 10 x 5 x 5 Inches
Edition: Open edition - Stamped with signature
Price: $115
Availability:
Inflatable T-Rex Baby Blue (Small)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 7 x 7 x 5 Inches
Edition: Open - Stamped with signature
Price: $115
Availability:
Inflatable Plesiosaurus Red (Small)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 8 x 4 x 4 Inches
Edition: Edition of 120 - Stamped with signature
Price: $85
Availability:
Inflatable Plesiosaurus Turquoise (Small)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 8 x 4 x 4 Inches
Edition: Edition of 120 - Stamped with signature
Price: $85
Availability:
Inflatable Styracosaurus Cobalt Blue
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 11 x 6 x 7 Inches
Edition: Edition of 12 - Stamped with signature
Price: $150
Availability:
Inflatable Triceratops Caledon (Small)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 10 x 5 x 5 Inches
Edition: Open edition - Stamped with signature
Price: $115
Availability:
Inflatable Brontosaurus Red (Small)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 6 x 5 x 9 Inches
Edition: Open Edition - Stamped with signature
Price: $115
Availability:
Inflatable Stegosaurus Yellow (Small)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 12 x 7 x 9 Inches
Edition: Open edition - Stamped with signature
Price: $150
Availability:
Inflatable Corythosaurus Cobalt Blue
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 13.5 x 11.5 x 5 Inches
Edition: Open edition - Stamped with signature
Price: $250
Availability:
Inflatable Brachiosaurus Purple
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 14.5 x 12 x 6 Inches
Edition: Open Edition - Stamped with signature
Price: $400
Availability:
Inflatable Stegosaurus Cobalt Blue (Small)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 12 x 7 x 9 Inches
Edition: Open edition - Stamped with signature
Price: $150
Availability:
Inflatable Mug Red
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 5.5 x 4 x 6 Inches
Edition: Open edition - Stamped with signature
Use: Food and dishwasher safe
Price: $65
Availability:
Inflatable Mug Amber
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 5.5 x 4 x 6 Inches
Edition: Open edition - Stamped with signature
Use: Food and dishwasher safe
Price: $65
Availability:
Inflatable Mug Green
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 5.5 x 4 x 6 Inches
Edition: Open edition - Stamped with signature
Use: Food and dishwasher safe
Price: $65
Availability:
Terme Boxer “Rocky at Rest”
Media: Ceramic, stoneware clay, acrylic paint
Size: 38 x 22 x 40 Inches
Year: 2016
Price: $30,000
Availability: Inquire
The Barberini Faun - “Drunk E.T.”
Media: Ceramic, stoneware clay, acrylic paint
Size: 25 x 14 x 24 Inches
Year: 2015
Price: $10,000
Availability: Inquire
Child Strangling Goose - “Alf Choking Cat”
Media: Ceramic, stoneware clay, acrylic paint
Size: 18 x 10 x 24 Inches
Year: 2015
Price: $8,000
Availability: Inquire
Fauno Rosso - “Slimer with Grapes and Roasted Chicken”
Media: Ceramic, stoneware clay, acrylic paint
Size: 18 x 17 x 19 Inches
Year: 2015
Price: $8,000
Availability: Inquire
The Dying Gaul - “The Death of Rafael”
Media: Ceramic, stoneware clay, acrylic paint
Size: 45 x 25 x 24 Inches
Year: 2015
Price: $18,000
Availability: Inquire
Portrait of an Old Man - “Tyrannosaurus Rex Bust”
Media: Ceramic, stoneware clay, acrylic paint
Size: 11 x 11 x 24 Inches
Year: 2016
Price: $8,000
Availability: Inquire
Inflatable Astronaut
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 12.5 x 10 x 22 Inches
Edition: 30
Year: 2013 - Stamped with signature
Price: $1500
Availability: Inquire
Inflatable Triceratops (Yellow)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 27 x 13 x 11 Inches
Edition: VERY Rare- Stamped with signature
Only available for purchase in the United States
Price: $1000
Availability: Inquire
Inflatable T-Rex Gold (Large)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 14 x 9 x 15 Inches
Edition: Very Rare - Stamped with signature
Only available for purchase in the United States
Price: $5,000
Availability: Inquire
Inflatable T-Rex Chrome (Small)
Media: Slip cast ceramic, gold luster, commercial glazes and clay
Size: 8 x 5 x 6 Inches
Edition: VERY Rare - Stamped with signature
Price: $600
Availability: Sold

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