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Brent Kee Young

Accross a Crowded Room
CPAC: How did you get introduced to your craft? What made you choose it as a profession?
Brent: As a youngster I was always interested in making stuff. Making model cars and planes, doing crafts at camp etc, and with “education” parents, in school I leaned toward engineering. In college I balanced physics, calculus, with design and drawing, intuitively knowing that I needed to develop in a broad based way. I went into engineering to make stuff, but found that making pots in the ceramic studio was more of a revelation than I could ever imagine. To be responsible for the design, concept, building, from start to finish with a finished result in front of me, was a revelation. It was over, engineering that is (or…. was it?). The hook that I refer to is the infection that invades us all in terms of the fascination, and compelling satisfaction of working with our hands. In short, I took some time off from engineering and took my first class in ceramic, plus calligraphy and microbiology at Oregon State University. I returned to State University of San Jose, withdrew from engineering and entered the Ceramics Department as a full time art student. Unlike in engineering, I really was uncertain where I was headed but I was confident that my choice would prove out. Glass was just in its beginnings there at San Jose in 1969, and “ Objects USA”, an exhibition of the “hand made” was traveling the country. I was smitten by the work of Sam Maloof and remember well his wondrous rocker and the impact it had on me. The studio glass movement, too, was in its infancy, so along with my new major in ceramics, I worked a glass concentration into my degree.

CPAC: What are some things that have influenced you or your work?
Brent: THE “FOSSIL SERIES” (an idea drives the need for the technique): After coming to Cleveland, I had been doing a lot of blown work, vases, goblets, functional vessels and the like, most of which exhibited this kind of paper weight wall. Within these walls I was able to create a kind of natural, micro landscape interior. I wanted to do a piece that was a tribute to “fishing” and made some goblets that had fish skeletons for stems. I didn’t, however, like the ensuing result as they were to “funk”ish for my taste. What I did discover, was the notion that I might invent a way to create a negative, fossil like image within a vessel wall that was informed by what I had been seeing at the Natural History Museum (and filleting fish). Here is where the lampworking started. I purchased a small hand torch from Bethlehem Apparatus, pulled some rudimentary cane from the glass that I was blowing, and invented a way to fashion clear glass images of fish skeletons and other assorted fauna. It meshed well with the colors that I was using, influenced by the natural landscape and a copper bearing glass that I was using. Imbedding the clear glass images in the copper colored glass substrate was so surprisingly effective, it gave me a look that was like a three dimensional, negative relief, fossil specimen, all trapped within the walls of a blown vessel. The resultant image was not like any glasswork I had seen. The unusual thing though, and what I find fascination is that that process of flame working became subordinate to the end image in that one didn’t know that the lamp was part of the process. The “Fossil Series” was born and became a fairly long exploration in blown works. Importantly, the inspiration for the work, its curiosity was born from a keen interest in nature, the landscape, fossils and fishing. Matrix Series: Really two bodies of work. The other flame worked idea came from looking at matrix ideas, nature and man-made detritus. There was a pile of re-bar from a building that has been raised next door to my studio. I had this idea to don a hard had, weld it all together and then cut it into a preconceived shape. This beckoned for some action so I devised a way to build such an idea using glass; “boro” seemed the right choice. (I should mention that the physics of “Borosilicate” glass seemed, and proved to be, very helpful with this idea.) The first piece was a Hemisphere with a square hole in it. It demonstrated to me that the construction idea could work. Since that first piece, I have been exploring objects in a couple of ways. One body is geometric studies. The study of volumes of solid revolution has helped immensely (curious that Gaudi used the catanary arch for his architecture). The works are usually a couple of geometric forms rotated into a solid, set off by another form that usually ends up being part of a rectilinear compositional base. The other thought refers to my interest in folk art and objects of use. These pieces are associated with a verb and the idea of function.

Often students ask what my personal influences are. I think if you are ever studying and find noteworthy, art, artists, artifacts, natural objects, etc., commonalties arise amongst that which you chose to be of interest. Noticing and reinforcing those commonalities will help to develop an informed intuitive sense and develop your own sense of entitlement in that which you make. If you find/choose, that which others have found historically significant and interesting enough to study, you delve into a kind of universal language that you can call your own, which is common in many ways to all of us. Therein lies an interest of discourse that can be not only meaningful to one’s self, but also to others in our community. The broader the interest, the broader the community.

CPAC: Why have you chosen Cuyahoga County as a place to live and work?
Brent: When we came to Cleveland there were two positions in the United States, the other was in Columbus at CCAD. There was a terrific cadre of artists teaching at the Cleveland Institute of Art including Julian Stacnzk, John Paul Miller, and Viktor Schreckengost (as well as Toshiko Takaezu prior to my coming). CCAD was oriented toward Applied Art and CIA had great balance amongst crafts, design and fine art. Then there is University Circle and all that is going on there. Columbus / Cleveland????? Not even a close choice.

CPAC: What is your favorite place, event, or “hidden gem” in greater Cleveland?
Brent: An Art Gem is Heights Arts, a local, grass roots, organization that supports art and music of Northern Ohio. Gallery on Lee next to Cedar Lee Theatre. Cinamateque. Cain Park….. restaurants on Lee Road…. Art Support and energy in Cleveland I think Cleveland is a “Gem” that is a terrific place to live, work, create, from amongst many places in the US to choose from.