The Farmers

/ Spotlight on the Collection

Joan Bankemper (American, born 1959), The Farmers, 2018. Porcelain, glazed earthenware, lace, sandy grout, partially gilded. Museum purchase with partial funds provided by Mrs. Peter Douglas Bunting 2019.17

Joan Bankemper’s The Farmers is a feat of ceramic sculpture that tells a colorful story of nature and the healing power of the land, complete with the figures of a peasant man and woman as finial. Pure Bankemper with a twist of Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926), who designed the highly embellished, yet unfinished Roman Catholic church Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, The Farmers is heavily encrusted with ceramic bits and bobs around a core that is mounted on an elaborately decorated porcelain coffee pot.

Joan Bankemper is an artist of many talents. After moving from Baltimore, where she was immersed in the world of sprint car racing, she began her career in New York working on site-specific garden installations as part of her desire to bring art into nature, to infuse art into every aspect of life. An advocate of the public garden, Bankemper has continued to support community gardens and her work has helped transform barren lots and wasted urban landscapes into lush, living spaces that serve to recharge and regenerate the people that visit and enjoy them.

Bankemper’s interest in nature segued into the practice of creating complex ceramic sculptures, originally intended as small tributes to friends who had died of AIDS. These were made of pieces of broken dishes and served as vessels to hold medicinal herbs. Today her ceramic sculptures incorporate a wide variety of ceramic objects, including decorative tableware and whimsical figures as well as new pieces that Bankemper casts herself. Each of her fantastical, colorful collages of bright ceramics has its own story to tell.

The Farmers is currently on view in the Museum’s English gallery.