Paul S. Briggs: Material Forms in Clay. This notable American artist, currently the Donald J. Gordon Visiting Artist and Lecturer at the College, creates sculptures and installations that respond to the impact of mass incarceration and other forms of systemic racism. He also creates pinch-formed vessels that can be seen as archetypes of beauty and resilience.
A selection of Briggs’ varied works is currently on exhibit in the List Gallery, extended through March 23. Early in his career, Briggs became well known for creating high relief clay vessels that evoke the delicate symmetry of plant forms. He pinch-forms these vessels through a labor-intensive and meditative process, and the resulting works evoke a corresponding sense of ritual and gravitas. Briggs’ slab-formed vessels have the spiritual resonance of ancient architecture and the muscular beauty of varied Chinese ceramic traditions. A centerpiece of the exhibition is Cell Personae: The Impact of Incarceration on Black Lives, an ambitious wall installation comprising 25 slab and coil sculptures. Each component of Cell Personae measures approximately 6 x 8 inches, reflecting the proportions of prison cells in the United States, which measure, on average, approximately six by eight-feet. Cell Personae grew out of Briggs’ work as a Baptist pastor from 2004-2014, and his wide-ranging social justice initiatives, such as facilitating interfaith study, working to mitigate and prevent domestic violence, and advocating for affordable housing.
Installation view, List Gallery, Swarthmore College, January – March 2022. Photograph: Joe Painter
about paul s. briggs
Briggs earned an M.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art, an M.S.Ed. from Alfred University, and a Ph.D. in art education/educational theory and policy from the Pennsylvania State University. An associate professor of art education at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, he has also taught at the Penland School of Craft in North Carolina, Haystack Mountain School of Craft in Maine, and the Harvard University Ceramics Program in Massachusetts as a resident artist from 2019-2020. His recent awards include a grant from the South Eastern Minnesota Arts Council. He is represented by Lucy Lacoste Gallery, Concord, Mass., and exhibits with Friedman Benda Gallery, New York, N.Y.