Larry Percy, associate professor of art, was recently selected to feature his work in the fourth annual Joshua Tree National Park Art Exposition.
Percy’s Arch 1-Saggar Fired Earthenware piece, along with works from 48 other artists, was selected from 236 submissions for the monthlong display
His piece is from a series entitled Kerygma that he has been developing since 1994, as a graduate student. Since then, the series has grown to about 60 to 80 pieces.
The series is inspired by his trips to the desert in the Southwest. He said he admires the topography and geology of that part of the United States, and is especially entranced by the transition of landscapes; from deserts to alpine forests to mountains.
As a young child, he would visit his grandparents’ log cabin in the northern mountains of New Mexico, about 30 miles from Santa Fe.
He would take trips to pueblos and museums, where he would admire Native American pottery and architecture.
According to Percy, the pieces reflect recollections from his childhood. He still visits his grandfather’s cabin to backpack across those mountains nearly every year, for further inspiration.
Percy has never visited the Joshua Tree National Park. But while researching the park, he discovered that his work would correlate perfectly with the scenery.
The Arch 1-Saggar Fired Earthenware piece incorporates an arch that is nearly identical to a large natural arch that resides in the park.
It was at that moment that Percy thought, “I’m going for this.”
He entered three of his pieces, and the Arch 1-Saggar Fired Earthenware piece was chosen.
The piece is about 20 inches by 16 inches, with a large arch that protrudes from a caved in, vessel-like, center.
“It resembles a big chunk of rock that has been mined out,” Percy said.
He used plaster molds to create this piece. The molds allowed him to evoke a feeling of massiveness without using solid clay, which is very difficult, according to Percy.
It resembles a boulder, until you take a closer look. Percy likes to do something “unique and special” on the inside of his pieces.
After 22 years of developing this series, it has occurred to Percy only in the last few years what the series was truly about.
“My pieces are about a spiritual journey,” Percy said.
He continued, saying that his work is about the geology of the soul. He has discovered that his vessel creations mimic the idea that humans are vessels.
“While we have this exterior shell, we also know that we all have some sort of soul about us,” Percy said.
He said his work is the intersection where art, faith and science meet.
“The same processes that are at work on the Earth, are at work on us,” Percy said. “Sometimes we get things eroded away that shouldn’t be.
“Things get brought into our lives that are uncomfortable. So we spend time trying to purge those.
“And other times we are perfectly balanced, and where we need to be. So it’s that kind of thing that I get to play with and explore all the time,” Percy added.
The Joshua Tree National Park Exposition was created in 2013 and is described as “a juried art exhibition and celebration featuring art inspired by or depicting the unique natural beauty or cultural history of Joshua Tree National Park,” according to 29 Palms Art Gallery’s website.
Percy’s Arch 1-Saggar Fired Earthenware piece is displayed in the Joshua Tree National Park Art Exposition 2016 at the 29 Palms Art Gallery in Twentynine Palms, California, until Oct. 2.
An awards reception will be held at the gallery on Sept. 17, from 5 to 8 p.m., for the featured artists.