Updated: May 15
One World, a mural that unites Kent and Japan:
Joy Brown’s Epic Ceramic Mural Spans Miles and Years
Litchfield, Magazine, CT - In a rural studio in South Kent, sculptor Joy Brown has labored for two years on a monumental ceramic mural destined for permanent installation across the globe in southern Japan. “One World,” composed of over 500 panels, tiles, and individual elements, is a crowning achievement for Brown. Made of clay from Macon, Georgia, the mural underwent two firings in the artist’s 30-foot long Japanese-style wood-firing “anagama” kiln with numerous local ceramic artists helping with the week-long process.
In November, Brown debuted the finished piece in a borrowed commercial space in the center of Kent. A documentary by Eduardo Montes-Bradley about “One World” and its message of cross-cultural connectedness was screened after the reception.
Brown’s personal history is central to the realization of the mural. Raised in Japan she attended an international high school where she befriended a young man, Shinichiro Watari. While life took them in different directions—Brown moved to Florida for college before returning to Japan to apprentice with masters of wood-fired ceramics, and Watari would find success in business and architecture—they reconnected years later when Brown was working as a potter in Wingdale, NY and Watari was based in Manhattan. Watari, who owned land in Kent, supported Brown’s work and sold her and her then-husband a five-acre parcel at a very low price. They built studios, a house, and the kiln and moved in in 1985. When Watari embarked on his passion project, the construction of Horokan (“To Wander”), a museum in his hometown on the island of Amami Oshima, he dedicated it to the children of that small village and honored a friendship that spanned both time and distance by commissioning Brown to create a 50-foot ceramic mural with the theme of One World.
As Brown reveals, “Some of the images in the mural come from the tropical island of Amami Oshima and others have recurred in my work for many years. The pods are part of my exploration of flow, the energy…that connects us all. We are all a part of a whole, an organic form flowing like a school of fish or flock of birds… ‘One World’ will flow across the museum wall, starting with Mother Earth, under the mangrove trees, dreaming the mandala of life, with life force ever-flowing. Her dream unfolds in nature and everyday life—people, plants, animals, mountains, seas, butterflies, community.”
On The News with Joy Brown
The structure of “One World” proceeds from left to right, designed to be experienced when walking. Brown’s style relates to Tom Otterness’ and Fernando Botero’s simplified figures though the composition of “One World,” with a figure dozing amid foliage, recalls tableaux by Henri Rousseau. A separate section features a poem written by another high-school friend, inscribed in the clay in both English and Japanese.
With the mural complete, now come the ultimate steps for consummating the cross-cultural endeavor. Each of the hundreds of pieces will be wrapped and fit into purpose-built crates and, with a prayer said for their safe arrival, their voyage to Japan will begin.