alchemical vessels - a healing arts project and benefit. / by Jeff Herrity Artist

The blank canvas. Each year a fantastic organization/gallery Joan Hisoaka Healing Arts Gallery at Smith Center for Healing + the Arts has a benefit to raise money and awareness of their efforts. Over 100 artists are invited to participate. I know that many artists do not agree with donating time and artwork to causes and I'm not sure why.  To me it is a vital part of my art making as well as a way to integrate my past life as a fundraiser with this new direction I am on.

Each artist is provided a bowl. A vessel. Our mission is to convert the bowl or use the bowl to show our interpretation of alchemy or healing.  I was very excited to be invited this year to create a vessel.

For a while it sat on the dining room table, various objects filling it at times. Here it transformed itself into a spare-change dish, a key-holder, random things that had no home. I then moved the bowl to my studio where it served the same purpose, sponges filled it, debris, again things that needed a space temporarily. At this point it became a reminder to me about so many things I needed to change and resolve in my own life. A reminder that healing was about to occur. A reminder that healing needed to occur. A reminder that creation was waiting for me.

So many ideas of what to do with this bowl. But around the same time I started to revisit my therapist to deal with some lingering issues of my own that I've been avoiding and carrying around like this blank bowl.

Finally, it came to me. Ceramics came to me. I knew WHY I make the work that I make - rooted in the same slip-casting work that my mother made when I was smaller. I realize now that my mother who made sure that when I was growing up I had everything that I wanted, gave me the biggest gift of all: understanding of why I make the work that I make.

Below is my bowl and my artist statement about it:

Where to the memories go?

To me, healing begins from within and often only after looking deeply at yourself and your willingness to heal. As I have been processing the many challenges in my life as a result of growing up in a house of abuse, my mother has been losing the battle against Alzheimers; I find refuge that in her last days she will not have any of the memories that I have been trying to forget. I long to find a vessel, like this bowl, that will contain her memories that are rapidly fading to nothing. I would protect them and remember for her.

I am confident that out of all the pain and sadness my family has faced, and continues to face today, that there can be beauty in the healing process. This bowl begun a healing process for me and the result is that I've realized that I am a vessel my mother created to carry her forever. My mother is my porcelain, and I'm with her every day as I create.