“With ceramic teapots, sunflowers, bread plates, bunnies, and chickens piled up with buoyant optimism, Joan Bankemper transforms traditionally modest tableware into miniature architectural follies. Each of her sculptures is created with hundreds of hand-built flowers, birds, bees and ceramics from molds she has collected. Bankemper’s work is influenced by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926), whose ceramic encrusted church, the Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona, is one of the most striking monuments conceived in the late 19th century.”
“Capturing the exuberant colors and forms of the natural world, Bankemper crams a whole garden into a teapot; the artist uses the teapot, symbol of domestic comforts and nourishment, as the base of her work with the most fantastical creativity rising from it.”
-Bartholomew F. Bland, Curator of “The Neo-Victorians: Contemporary Artists Revive Gilded-Age Glamour” at the Hudson River Museum
Working in the way a collagist or assemblagist might, Bankemper creates vessels, beginning with a simple glass vase at the core or a hand-built vessel form of clay. She surrounds the vase with the shape of an urn, be it tall and graceful with elegant handles, or round and flat with a “canvas-like” field to cover. The ceramic urn that surrounds the vessel is its first “skin,” which the artist builds and often breaks. She cements sections of the urn together leaving the cemented passages open and raw, yielding an artifact-like surface to the vessel. She then starts to dress and cloak the vessel with her vocabulary of images, molds, etc. Casting from a collection of 1500 molds, the artist creates myriad shapes and sizes, animals and figurines, combining these with historical ceramics, contemporary china, and hand-built objects. Everywhere the eye looks, there is something rich, textured and layered for the eye to behold. These are not simple pieces; they are complex tapestries of life, always keyed to a color or narrative theme.