Tom Bartel is known for his “disturbing yet humorous” fragmented figures that often take cues from a “shotgun blast” of influences ranging from antiquity to popular culture.
Bartel has exhibited, lectured and taught workshops extensively throughout the United States (Including 20 solo exhibitions), and has exhibited in Japan and Korea. In the summer of 2005 he conducted professional research in Canada, Spain, and Italy and will travel to the Czech Republic in the summer of 2006. Bartel’s work is included in numerous public and private collections including the San Angelo Museum of Art, The Kinsey Institute, The FuLe International Ceramic Art Museums, Fuping, China. He has received Individual Artist Fellowships from the Pennsylvania Arts Council and the Kentucky Arts Council. He has numerous publications to his credit, most recently Ceramics Monthly, “Challenging Beauty; The Sculpture of Tom Bartel.”
Clay is my chosen material; ceramics is my chosen medium. I cannot do what I do with any other material or process; clay and its firing process usually allow me to manifest my ideas best.
I have always been fascinated by human form and tend to use this as a starting point in my work. My work questions various stages of life, which are determined primarily by the biological development of the body from birth to death. I see the human life cycle as an experience containing many beginnings and endings many “births and deaths”; the connection between the beginning and ending of life is a continual source of inspiration. I am observant of how powerful time can be and am intrigued by the many ways in which we are affected by its passage. The changes that take place over time are frighteningly subtle.
Some of my work is directly concerned with the relationship between clothing and growth and clothing and skin. Each has the potential to encompass physical as well as emotional concerns. The body, when patterned, usually refers to clothing, to some degree. I enjoy the ambiguity that this situation presents. Furthermore, I see our clothing and/or appearance as being capable of summing up who or what we are yet it is only a facade; the ideas of mask, disguise, transformation and identity are fundamental to my concerns.
The ceramic surfaces I obtain are a vital component of my work through which I intend to confront the viewer’s attention with the outermost “skin” of the work. I am attracted to heavily worn, patinated surfaces that reveal the “history” of an object. I see our skin as having the same potential as the surfaces by which I am intrigued. Throughout our life as we age our appearance inevitably and slowly changes and in the process our skin records this story.