Joel Otterson


For nearly 25 years my sculptures have had the potential to feed and entertain people.  The Coffee Table, Tea Cart, Refrigerators, Dining Tables and Dinnerware could store, serve and prepare food.  Conversations were created and instigated by the interaction with these objects.  It turns the sculpture into a party.  So, when thinking of what to do for Andrea's first HDTS the logical thought for me was to bring objects and people together by feeding and entertaining them.  

Joshua Tree is so dramatic it called for something equally dramatic on the menu.  Roasting a pig on a spit matches the rugged wilderness of such a place.  It also confronts the carnivorous reality that we are carnivores.  Food in this context is no longer abstract, dinner is in fact an animal with a face, neck, feet and tail.  Meat for me is better disguised as something that looks nothing like the live animal it once was.  I picked up the suckling pig from the carnicería.  It was sort of sad because it was a very cute whole dead pig, but as soon as I covered it in beer and achiote it became food.  On the spit above the fire it was definitely a pig, an animal that once lived, breathed and walked.  

The pig was one half of this event called "Two Fires/California Adventure" the other half was that I made and fired the dinnerware we ate from in the same fire that we cooked the pig.  The pig and the pottery finish at the same time, pulling the plates from the coals and carving the pig onto those plates.  Both activities are quite primitive.  Cooking and making sculpture have always struck me as a similar activity, cutting, chopping, combining, tasting or viewing.  The similarities between ceramics and cooking seem even more over lapped, both take heat to transform their ingredients into something new.  

I like it when art becomes layered and has different and unrelated ideas woven together in to one cloth. "California Adventure" is the name for Disney's new theme park adjacent to Disneyland.  California is enough of a "State of Mind" to make a whole amusement park, with California themed rides and attractions.  It's very strange there is a small San Francisco with a Golden Gate Bridge, a small Hollywood and cement Redwoods.  I had recently moved back to Los Angeles (my birthplace) and I was on my own adventure in California.  After all there are Disneylands worldwide, so I figured why not make my own little renegade satellite Disneyland in Joshua Tree for the day.  All of the 88 pieces of pottery we fired were decorated with Mickey, Minnie, Magic Kingdoms and other Disney icons.  Disney is also notorious about their image and the licensing of their brand and known for pursuing non-licensed objects or images.  The work "thumbs its nose" at those proprietary ideas and place them in the "public domain".  
In the end it was an amazing day.  We worked our asses off the whole day hauling wood, building and tending fires, basting and roasting a pig, away from the rest of the other HDTS events and visitors, but in a beautiful place in Pipes Canyon owned by the "Guru” of the canyon, Garth.  He had over six hundred acres of land in the most dramatic and stunning location.  It was so stunning because he had hand manicured the twenty or thirty acres he lived on (in a cement Teepee), he pruned the desert into a Zen garden, truly amazing.  There were Peacocks and Guinea foul wandering around.  The pig was cooked and the plates fired, and just when I thought no one was going to come, Andrea showed up with kegs of beer and a hundred people. The timing couldn't have been better.  Every bone was picked clean, the kegs drunk dry, the sun had long set and the "Two Fires" were burning down.  The Carnivorous carnivores ruled that evening.  It was really special.
- Joel Otterson 

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