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Joy and the Everyman

Studio visit with South Kent ceramicist Joy Brown



Joy Brown sits in the doorway of her throwing studio, where she builds sculptures from a blend of material like Japanese clays she trained with.

Megan Haley

Billy Morrison was like a kid in a candy shop. He’d just discovered a few creatures huddling together beside the subway-car sized kiln at the heart of artist Joy Brown’s ceramic studio. The four-legged ceramic beasts are bigger than cats, but smaller than pigs, with gently rounded bodies and sweetly expressive faces.

“So, what are they?” Brown says. “You know the term ‘Everyman’? Well, these could be ‘Everyanimal’. I’ve been drawing them since elementary school.”

“Let’s bring them to the gallery! What will we title them?” asks Morrison. 

Brown replies, “We can call them Animal 1 and Animal 2 and Animal 3.” 

“We’ll number them as we sell them!” Morrison quips. 

Four of us had gathered for a visit to artist Joy Brown’s ceramic studio in South Kent, our group including Brown, her dealer Billy Morrison, and collector Deborah Foord. Morrison’s childlike enthusiasm for the work, combined with business-savvy thinking, typifies the relationship he cultivates with the artists he represents in his eponymous Morrison Gallery in Kent, which over the past 18 years has become somewhat of an institution for living Connecticut artists. In addition to building a new 5,500-square-foot gallery space and 10,000-square-foot art-storage facility, Morrison has turned his attention to exhibiting large-scale public sculpture in recent years. Joy Brown is the third artist represented by the gallery to be tapped for exhibition in New York by the Broadway Mall Association. 

The appearance of Connecticut Artists on the Broadway Mall in recent years is in large part due to board member Deborah Foord, who is a resident in both Litchfield and New York, and an avid supporter of contemporary art in the Northwest Corner. “Spiritual and serene, those are words I like for Joy’s figures,” says Foord.

Arriving with a fleet of flatbeds one weeknight in May, Morrison, Foord, and Brown worked through the night to find the perfect locations for the work. Beginning opposite the entrance to the subway station at the intersection of Broadway and 72nd, these giant Bronze humans can be found all the way to 168th street. They will populate the Broadway mall for the next three to six months, delighting passersby from 72nd to 168th Streets, crossing diverse neighborhoods and New York City subcultures.

The response has been instantaneous, as the many playful posts on social media will attest. Perform a search of #joybrownonbroadway on social media and you see children and adults happily befriending the newcomers, enfolded in their arms or lounging on their backs.

“People have used the word ‘humanoid’ for my sculptures. It’s a really weird word. You hear it and you think ‘alien,’ as if they’re an empty shell—and I see them as full of spirit. There’s a spirit in there.” 

Built and fired as ceramic sculptures in Brown’s studio in South Kent, the bronzes are enlarged and cast in Shanghai by Purple Roof Atelier, a small studio and gallery dedicated to supporting contemporary artists. The artist’s touch is integral to every step of this process; she travels to Shanghai to work on the foam and plaster molds, adjusting the facial features. She says cutting the eyes and mouth is a pivotal moment. “It pops alive. It’s just like a shell of metal, then at a certain point—it’s looking right at you,” she says. 

Joy Brown has lived between Asia and America all her life, having been raised in Japan by parents of European descent. After college, she returned to Japan to train with a master ceramicist who she credits with “getting her out of her head,” after the more cerebral experience of an American art school. She tells the story of the first lesson she was given: she was handed a sake cup to copy. 

She spent weeks throwing hundreds of versions of this simple cup on the wheel. The lesson was not about making a perfect sake cup. It was about connecting deeply with a process, learning to trust that “your hand and your heart know what to do before your head knows.” This notion is at the center of Joy Brown’s work and practice. 

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November 2017

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Cost: Free

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Oliver Wolcott Library
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Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
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Cost: Free

Where:
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Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 1-866-907-2314
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In the summer of 1972 Jason rode a motorcycle from Connecticut to California, with stops in most of the Western States. The beauty he experienced on this trip ignited a lifelong passion for...

Cost: Free

Where:
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160 South St
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View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

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Cost: $40

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
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Danbury, CT  06811
View map »

More information

The Department of Theatre Arts will present "EVITA" in the MainStage Theatre of the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the WCSU Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury....

Cost: $25

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave Extension
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: Free!

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
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View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
Website »

More information

The Litchfield Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit Thoughts, Words, and Deeds: Exploring the Litchfield Female Academy, on view April 22 through November 27, 2017...

Cost: Free

Where:
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7 South Street
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Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
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Cost: Free

Where:
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Route 202
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Sponsor: Little Free Library
Telephone: 203-770-4156
Contact Name: Rose Buckens
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Cost: Admission: Adults: $10 • Children & Seniors: $5• Kids under 5: Free

Where:
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18 Old Ridgebury Road
EXIT 2, I-84
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »


Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 1-866-907-2314
Contact Name: Jack Bouffard
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave Extension
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »

More information

In the summer of 1972 Jason rode a motorcycle from Connecticut to California, with stops in most of the Western States. The beauty he experienced on this trip ignited a lifelong passion for...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oliver Wolcott Library
160 South St
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Oliver Wolcott Library
Telephone: 186-056-78030
Contact Name: Jordan McCorison
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

Where:
The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens
One Green Hill
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens
Contact Name: Katie Morley
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Cost: Online price: $65.00 Door price: $75.00

Where:
Crowne Plaza Hotel
18 Old Ridgebury Road
Danbury, CT  06810
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Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 203-790-6568
Contact Name: Jack Bouffard
Website »

More information

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Cost: $30

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave Extension
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »

More information

The Department of Theatre Arts will present "EVITA" in the MainStage Theatre of the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the WCSU Westside campus, 43 Lake Ave. Extension in Danbury....

Cost: $25

Where:
WCSU Westside Campus
43 Lake Ave Extension
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »


Website »

More information

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Cost: $20

Where:
WCSU Midtown Campus
181 White Street
Danbury, CT  06810
View map »

More information

Sports and recreation are universal experiences. Whether we make it to the big leagues or never leave our backyards, these activities play important roles in our lives. They help us form...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
Website »

More information

The Litchfield Historical Society is pleased to announce the opening of a new exhibit Thoughts, Words, and Deeds: Exploring the Litchfield Female Academy, on view April 22 through November 27, 2017...

Cost: Free

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
View map »


Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Megan Olver
Website »

More information

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