My name is Ian Park. I’m originally from the southern rural village called Hartman, Arkansas. The population is still about 600 people. From there, I began making art at a preschool age by sketching with pen in wide ruled notebooks on my grandparent’s couch and gluing popsicle sticks together to make sculptures, all while experimenting with usual childhood art supplies of marker, crayon, watercolor, and mud. Middle school is when I realized art was part of my life and I couldn’t live without it; a means of survival for a queer kid living in a completely hetero community. Near the end of high school, I had the luxury of experimenting with ceramic sculpture and firing objects in the kiln. It wasn’t until my second year of college that I realized ceramics would become a major part of my life.
It was in higher education that I pursued a career in art. There were so many wonderful instructors and people that I met in Little Rock during my time in that city and eventually I obtained a bachelor’s degree in studio art and public school art education after six years of being an undergraduate at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. I remember realizing I wanted to be a teacher when I was showing a co-worker how to make a rose out of icing at my cake decorator job. Something clicked in my brain that this would have to accompany my art making.
The first piece of art I found to be professional was made during my last year of undergrad. It was titled Visiting Grandma Agatha, and it combined my skills with cake decorating, wood working, painting, found object, ceramics, mold making, and conversations with my grandma that we had over sweets at the table. After being an intern elementary school teacher that last year of school, I realized just how much I loved teaching K-5 elementary art. Kids are awesome, and so fun to be around! I was able to juggle my art and being a public-school teacher for a couple years. I missed ceramics though, and didn’t have access to a kiln, so I applied to the Flower City Arts Center in Rochester, NY and was accepted as a resident artist there in 2016. I met some awesome folks in that region as well. From there I helped establish the very first Flower City Pottery invitational, pushed my ceramics career further, applied for grad school (and got into LSU), and finally learned just how hard the real world can be. I am forever grateful for my time there and can’t wait to go back and visit when the time comes.
I am in my third year of grad school at Louisiana State University. My work is about combining queerness with, camp, the uncanny and horror. I create functional pottery with a cone 6 clay body that uses imagery or words relating to queerness & LGBTQIA+ themes. These pots usually consist of a pre drawing on leather hard ware and different layers of underglazes, wax resist techniques, sgraffito, lusters, and decals. I also make installations that consist of wallpaper, fabric, performance video projection, found object, paint, video projection, wood, and altered objects. I adore creating installation that people can either walk through or come into close contact. With these installs, I am pushing the idea of set design and art, creating an atmosphere that sees through the veneer of a normal home in a way that celebrates the queer themes of horror I use.
I also love to celebrate other people’s art, and community is very important to me, especially the LGBTQIA+ community. In October of 2019, I organized a queer ceramics symposium at LSU, with the assistance of Andy Shaw. We titled it Queeramics and several queer clay artists from around the U.S. came to participate. I curated an exhibit with 25 artists from around the nation and Canada, there were two love performance art works, a panel discussion, keynote speaker, and think tank discussions with the attending queer artists. We came together to embrace each other’s thoughts, concerns, needs, creations, and lives and will all be pushing to create a stronger future for queer ceramics.
As of now, I must continue finishing my thesis. Once I graduate with my MFA, I would love to become a resident artist again at another art center in America and continue churning out installations and pottery. I love what art centers have to offer their community! Beyond that, I would like to continue teaching kids. I miss teaching children and want my students to have a future with the artistic well-rounded knowledge that I have to offer. Just like my roots in art as a child, I want others to be able to explore their many artistic options, because art opens thousands of different possibilities for a
brighter and more knowledgeable future. If you want to see more of my art you can find me on Instagram.
Ian Park is one of 44 artists included in the 4th annual The Cup, The Mug exhibition on the second floor at Main Street Arts, a national juried exhibition of drinking vessels. The Cup, The Mug runs through December 14, 2019.