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Updated: Nov 25, 2022

During principal photography for the upcoming documentary The Art of Joy Brown, I had the opportunity to partake in the creative process and evolution of the mural Joy calls One World. In the process, I learned about the artist, about myself, and the world we both share. Eduardo Montes-Bradley

Mother Earth, opening the mural

Visitors to the gallery where the mural was temporarily installed, walked away with multiple interpretations of the meaning conveyed. The artist named it One World, an it was being shown for the first time in Kent, CT before being shipped for a permanent exhibit in Japan. Measuring fifty feet in length, the work was mounted on a 30 degree angle wall were the public could read it as a scroll. I have gone through several readings myself, and with every passing along the stories printed on earth and fire, my understanding of the story coded on the scroll kept changing, allowing for a deeper understanding of what was there in front of me.

Joy Brown, holding one of the panels of her mural

If one where to ask the artist she will probably say that the fifty-foot-long clay-scroll that came out of her anagama kiln in Connecticut, tells the story of Mother Earth as she is laying at the edge of the world dreaming of peace and harmony. However, Joy Brown’s fertility godess doesn’t look like the Venus of Willendorf, Persephone, Aphrodite, not even Isis or Pachamama, Brown’s mother figure is more human, more down to Earth. She’s not in a pedestal, on top of a truncated pyramid nor toping a marble column, Brown’s fertile self seems to have fallen asleep with a pet companion, as an infant would with a stuffed animal. In fact, Brown calls these creatures that that have been emerging from her kiln for years her “animals”. Brown’s animals, along with her pods and other constant formal references are an intrinsic part of her toolbox of characters made of clay. I suspect the woman in the mural is no other than the artist herself, and that story unfolding before the visitors’ eyes is a projection of the artist’s hopes and aspirations. Joy Brown loves to take siestas, this time she shaped it and fired it in her kiln for everyone to see, and that takes courage.

Myself, holding one of Joy Brown’s animals

These “animals” and other creatures may seem mythological, but they’re not. They are deeply rooted in the landscape of Amami Oshima, a tropical island in Japan. Mangroves, butterflies, families of farmers or artisans holding hands in small villages tucked in valleys between mountains by the sea, newly born babies surrounded by woman, ferns and a magic tree that only grow in Amami Oshima, a compact school of indigenous fish, a flock of birds migrating to the unknow. Perhaps that last figure, one that Joy Brown chose to close her story on the far right end of the mural, is also a reflection of herself between two cultures.

One World, the mural recently unveiled for a temporary showing before it is shipped to its permanent home at the Horokan Museum, is Brown’s legacy and tribute to multiculturalism, a confession of sorts, and poetic plea that echoes the final stanza in Life Is A Dream:

I dream I am bound with chains,

And I dreamed that these present pains

Were fortunate ways of old.

What is life? a tale that is told;

What is life? a frenzy extreme,

A shadow of things that seem;

And the greatest good is but small,

That all life is a dream to all,

And that dreams themselves are a dream.

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