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The Clay Studio

Sharif Bey: New Work


May 1 - May 31, 2009
Opening Reception First Friday, May 1, 5-9pm

Sharif Bey is currently an Assistant Professor of Art Education at Winston Salem State University. He received an M.F.A in Studio Art from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a Ph.D in Art Education from Penn State University. Bey holds a particular interest in African-American art history, along with the art education of former communist Europe and contemporary crafts. His ceramic/mixed-media works explore traditional and contemporary notions of function, ritual and identity. Currently, his research involves identity and political agency of African-American artists. In 2003, Bey was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research on post- socialist Slovak art education reforms in the Slovak Republic. His teaching experience includes the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, Penland School for Crafts and Penn State University, among others.

In writing about this current body of work, Bey states, "The process of exploring my identity as an African-American, husband, father, artist, educator, art student, and functional potter creates a dialogue in the studio, which never grows tiresome. My training as a functional potter has not only informed my current sculpture in regards to form and surface but it is where my earliest discussions with regards to object, function, and ritual began. As a student I spent years producing wheel-thrown pots, which were intended, through their aesthetic sensibility and function, to enhance people’s lives. I struggled with the challenge of producing works that were unique, ornate, and made with the utmost care yet suitable for the kitchen. I took issue with the fact that the intended purpose of these works was often negated so I sought alternative ways of paying respect to traditional, functional, and ceremonial objects while sharing my own cultural and political voice. "

bey Image Gallery

"Shortly after completing my graduate studies, I attended a lecture conducted by Don Reitz, who contends that his “statues of pots” pay homage to vessels and their history. This statement changed my outlook on contemporary crafts. Rather than perpetuating craft conventions and traditions, Reitz creates sculptures, which memorialize the history of the vessel and vessel making. His ceramic works function as metaphors or signifiers for the relationship between traditional crafts and contemporary art. I realized that if Reitz could produce statues of pots, then I could produce sculptures which honor the history of any object (necklaces, Headdresses, bracelets, Tobacco pipes). This realization has had a profound impact on my transition from the production of functional wares to my current explorations of signification, symbolism, and metaphor. "

"My current sculptures cross-reference contemporary notions of power, and ornamentation, with forms and images associated with various traditional African jewelry/currencies. I explore the bead as a symbol for cultural and political identity. The design material and form of Beads are notable ways of distinguishing African societies of various cultural, religious, and geographical backgrounds. The symbolic meaning of beads in early African-American culture is speculative however some archeologists believe that beads were also connected to slave barter systems. In the 1960s beads were re-popularized and became Black cultural/political signifiers. Through the juxtaposition of the objects, images, and symbols I hope the viewer will reconsider the impact of cultural icons/symbols and question notions of power and value. "