ON THE NEWS
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
BY TRACEY O’SHAUGHNESSY (Sunday, December 4, 2022) Montes-Bradley, a longtime independent documentary filmmaker, was initially drawn to Joy Brown’s warmth — literal and metaphorical. A mutual friend suggested he visit Kent to assess whether a film about the two-year process would appeal to him. Montes-Bradley has created dozens of films about artists, and with all of them, he says he strives to avoid the trap of falling into the artist’s own viewpoint.
“When I approach an artist to make a film, in order to preserve my integrity, I have to distance myself from the intentions of the artists, otherwise it’s propaganda,” he “I need to look at the art in front of me and create based on the reactions I have with that mural. And, in the case of Joy Brown and the mural, I was not able to escape her intentions. So, I was seduced by the work.” It was not simply the mural itself, he says, but the community atmosphere in which Brown works, where friends gather to stoke the fire and load the kiln, with their own pieces or with Brown’s. For Brown, artwork is communal. In effect, to create her singular work, Brown works in plurality. “Once you see her at work around the kiln, you realize that her work is a work of community and she will insist on that,” Montes-Bradley says.
Montes-Bradley comes from a family of porcelain makers in Argentina. While filming Brown in Kent, his father was dying, and Montes-Bradley was not with him. “My father was a ceramist, a porcelain maker, and he had a porcelain factory with a very long kiln that I was never able to walk into,” he said. Being able to walk on his knees, into Brown’s kiln, he said, helped him to grieve. “Being able to take pieces inside the kiln helped me to emotionally get in touch with my father maybe for the first time,” he said. “Once you start thinking of the kiln as a living beast, a dragon, a monster in the best term, if you can go inside the whale, like Jonah, you begin to understand who the other is. To me, walking into the tunnel, kneeling, making an effort to walk, I was inside the womb of the dragon and looking at my father from the inside out as he was dying.”
Language is difficult for Kent artist Joy Brown. Even Japanese, the language to which she is most drawn, and the culture in which she is otherwise most fluent. Brown was born and raised in Japan, the child and grandchild of Presbyterian ministers. And though she imbibed the country’s culture, drenched herself in its traditions and saturated her work with its ethos, her language skills are tentative, fractured, maladroit. Her language skills are, in other words, the inverse of her enormous sculptures, with their guileless, gobsmacked expressions and impish, lissome poses. Although these heavy, rounded forms suggest gravitas, they are as frisky and impish as a Gumby toy, undeterred by their tonnage, freewheeling, coltish and undaunted. The New Yorker described them as “Teletubbies that grew up, chilled out, lost their headgear, and took up nude sunbathing.”
The documentary “One World: The Art of Joy Brown” will center on Brown’s work and the 50-foot-long ceramic mural she created for a permanent exhibit at the Horokan Museum, Amami Oshima, Japan. The documentary follows the artist’s creative process, the ancestral anagram traditions, and the relationship forged around the kiln with a community of artists. To learn more or donate to the project, visit: heritagefilmproject.com
For the past two years, Brown has been working on her most colossal project yet — a 50-foot mural relief titled “One World” to adorn the Horokan Museum in Amami Oshima, Japan. The space is the private museum of Shinichiro Watari, chairman of the trading house Cornes & Company and one of Brown’s closest classmates at the international school she attended while growing up in Japan. “She doesn’t like me using the term monumental, but I think she is wrong,” says filmmaker Eduardo Montes-Bradley. “It is monumental.”
For the past two years, Montes-Bradley has been documenting Brown’s work for his film, “One World: The Art of Joy Brown,” which will be presented at film festivals in the U.S., Australia, and Japan next fall. “To me, the mural is the gospel according to Joy. What it is, is the history of the
THE WORK ITSELF — 500 INDIVIDUAL fired pieces — will be assembled in Japan, quilting together what will become a distillation of Brown’s career, one she has been articulating in the only language she knows — clay. It will be displayed over a long corridor that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. In his request to her, Watari wrote Brown, “Given your and (my upbringing) — multinational, multicultural, internationalist and anti-isolationist — I thought, especially
given the recent resurgence of isolationist, separationist, America first and other developments that limit free movements or exchanges of the people, the ONE WORLD should be the theme or underlying message.” Brown, 71, says it articulates her feelings, incarnated by longtime friend Margaret Moorhead, whose words Brown etched into the mural:
“Here we are the clay
Earth air fire water
Visible and invisible