Bech Evans (left) works with two young chefs preparing and serving a meal in a gallery space. Evans thinks of pottery as tools that make possible and facilitate connection with others.


Evans Takes Pottery From Cups to Community

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Thursday March 17, 2016

Bech Evans is less concerned with the expectations of what a potter should make and, instead, more interested in the conceptual process of shaping - be it studio space, a cup, or his life. Evans, who studied ceramics at the University of Mississippi and Pennsylvania State University, is the director of the Living/Learning Center Pottery Co-op on the campus of the University of Vermont. His work is currently part of an exhibit titled Dysfunction, Navigating Memory: Exploring Place at the BCA Center in Burlington through April 9.

Evans is one of ten contemporary artists who are part of the Dysfunction exhibit that examines the long lasting association between ceramics and function, a relationship so engrained in our society that people often instinctively connect the medium with utilitarian and domestic purposes, rather than fine art and craft. Dysfunction challenges this tension by asserting that functionality may depend upon context rather than an absolute and fixed purpose. Beginning with a playful pun as the exhibition’s title, Dysfunction initiates a dialogue about how assumptions concerning ceramics can be confronted through observing artwork that varies from beautiful and precious to surreal and grotesque.  

Evans says that his work is a good fit for the BCA exhibit as he describes the nature of his craft itself as “dysfunctional.” He explains,” Though I make pottery, I rarely sell it; rather, the things I make become tools that facilitate larger, often unsalable projects and events that involve other people: conversation, relationships, chance, and risk.”

Working with a range of clays, Evans also creates with wood and other materials. In Dysfunction, he exhibits a toolbox he fabricated out of hardwood, plywood, cork, found hardware, and paint. The piece speaks to his desire to create experience through his work. Evans says, “I think of it as making tools that facilitate events that involve other people.”
Other aspects of the Dysfunction exhibit that speak to Evans’ penchant for community are gathering events hosted by the artist. Earlier this year, Evans held “tea gatherings,” and on Thursday, March 24, he will hold a “dinner gathering” from 6 to 8 p.m. at the BCA Center. “The sole purpose of the gathering is to create a space for people to connect, especially to strangers, people in the community they do not know,” says Evans. The dinner is potluck style and space is limited to 25 people. Anyone interested in attending can contact the BCA or Evans directly by e-mail at bevans2@uvm.edu for more information.

In addition to shaping community, Evans reports that bringing an object into the world that did not exist before is one of the most satisfying aspects of his work, in particular, “ones that reveal something about my pleasures, my repulsions, my abilities, my limitations, my taste, my being.” The ceramist adds that his love of home “propels me into the studio to make objects that I hope capture my reverence and deep affection for the home.”

In regards to his work at the
Living/Learning Center Pottery Co-op, Evans describes it as a mixture of relational and administrative. He likes meeting and working with new people and says, “I enjoy creating opportunities for others to make and I enjoy working in a space that encourages and celebrates risk taking.”

“I’m trying to see my life and my practice holistically. I consider shaping the studio space and shaping our community as making. I consider forming cups in the studio as making. I’m making all the time. It’s all my art. I’m not good at all of it, but I’m learning and trying to grow as a studio director and a potter,” says Evans.

The artist, who lives in South Burlington with his wife and children, speaks of the circular energy that thrives between home and his work at the studio. Evans sees it as an inspiration, saying, “The studio sends me back home, where I’m eager to return to community, communion, and, of course, to use all of the objects that I make and have collected over the years.”

Dysfunction, Navigating Memory: Exploring Place, BCA Center, 135 Church Street, Burlington. Through April 9. For more information, visit www.burlingtoncityarts.org.