Can you tell me a bit about you an your background? You’re currently based in LA; are you from there originally?
I have been living and working in Los Angeles for the past 8 years but I am originally from Lincoln, Rhode Island. Lincoln is about ten miles outside of Providence where I went to school (RISD). In 2007 I moved to Helena, Montana for a two year fellowship and residency at the Archie Bray Foundation.
Was there a moment that you “discovered” art, or realized for the first time it was something you were driven to make?
I grew up drawing and painting but it wasn’t until I was a freshman in high school where I discovered clay. I have been working with ceramics full time ever since.
What is your process like?
I don’t research glazes or take copious notes on the chemistry of ceramics, which a lot of people do. I work with ten or fifteen different materials that I’ve learned how to use really well. Everything is from memory so there is some chance and a lot of control. Occasionally I break pieces in half and rework them, so my process is additive and subtractive.
Without sharing trade secrets, is there any particular part of the process that you really get into?
I enjoy airbrushing gradients onto my sculptures. This gives life to ceramic, which is naturally gray and brown.
You’ve made a series you call “Cups” and also wall pieces, many of which encompass a signature gloopy, crackled texture and an array of colors. How did you arrive at this style?
Nonrepresentational drawing, painting, and photography had a big impact on me early on at RISD. I wanted to translate that influence into clay and glaze. The cup was a starting off point which has evolved into many different forms. I still make the “Cup” series but I’ve mostly moved onto larger sculptures.
Do you have any mentors, or any piece of advice (or both?) that has influenced your work?
I had instructors who helped me during my time as a student but they certainly were not mentors. The term “mentor” is an antiquated concept because there’s very little infrastructure for that type of relationship to build in an authentic way. Most advice I get now is on how to maintain a functional studio.
What is your studio like?
My studio is a big white cube with a lot of natural light, concrete floors, and high ceilings. I spend most of my day there, so it is always clean and free of clutter.
You work with ceramic, a medium which is traditionally associated with craft, and pieces like the Cups are vessels, but non-functional. Do you define your work in any way as “craft” or “art,” or are those distinctions meaningless?
My work is sculpture.
If you could sit down for lunch or a beer with anyone, who it would it be and what would you chat about?
I would want to have coffee with Christopher Hitchens if he were alive today, but I would mostly want him to talk at me while I bask in his presence.
What do you find most challenging, daunting, or frustrating about being an artist?
There is little security in building a career in art, which is why many artists are paranoid and frustrated. When you couple something based on emotion with value and social capital, it makes for a chaotic profession to navigate. Aside from that, the challenge for me in studio is usually deciding on which colors to mix.
Have you ever encountered a creative rut that you had to work out of? (Or what do you do if you’re at a standstill?)
In April of 2016 I started traveling to remote areas to be in nature, like the Galapagos Islands, East Africa, and the Bolivian Amazon etc. This had a big influence on my studio because I went from the cylinder shape to large multidimensional sculpture. When I feel burnt out by studio, I plan a trip.
Do you have any advice for someone who is considering or just starting out in art school?
It is important to learn a skill in order to find ways of supporting yourself in real life. The better you are at that skill, the more opportunities you will have. No matter what field you are in, master your craft and don’t skimp on materials.
What are you working on currently?
I am working on more sculpture, a few large cups, and more ceramic paintings.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I hope 2018 is better than 2017.
Find more at brianrochefort.net and on Instagram @energygloop!
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