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Benji Schulman

Resident Artist - Past

Residence Time: 2003-2004

After spending the majority of my career as a Ceramic Sculptor and Installation Artist, I have returned to the processes and techniques of my first introduction to clay – throwing functional pots.  Recently, I was given the opportunity to spend a year as a Visiting Ceramic Professor at Kyung Hee University, in Suwon, South Korea.  Immersing myself in a foreign culture with a rich history of ceramic art allowed me to find my own voice within the context of functional pottery.  This did not come through the many visits to museums with vast collections of historical ceramics, but from experiencing everyday life in Korea.  It also came from understanding the significance of ceramic objects as Art and an integral functioning part of Korean culture.

These ideas first began one night while eating dinner at a traditional Korean restaurant with some professors and students.  I began to notice how the empty dishes were stacked in the hands of the waitress as she took them back to the kitchen.  I saw a formal beauty in the simplicity of an unconscious process.  Sitting down at a traditional meal in Korea entails many dishes filled with different types of Kim-Chi, vegetables, fish, and meats that are served for the entire table to share.  The food does not stop coming from the kitchen until every little space on the table is occupied.  Individuals aren’t given a plate of their own, just a bowl of rice and some chopsticks.  As a group you sit on the floor with comfortable pillows, talking, drinking and eating from the many different dishes on the table.

Although the experience of eating a Korean meal was inspiring, it was still the stacks of dishes that had kept my attention.  I couldn’t stop thinking about how harmoniously, not perfectly, the plates were stacked when taken away.  I began seeing these stacks as a metaphor representing the ritual of feasting, sharing and communicating.  In retrospect, I realize why this peaked my interest.  I now see the correlation to the ideas of community and social awareness that have been prevalent in my sculptural/installation work. Through the random ambiguity of the stacks, I discovered new and interesting ways of transcending objects of everyday life to speak of community and social interaction.