The idea of a collaborative artistic partnership between Joe and me evolved out of daily conversations over lunch with colleagues at Joliet Junior College from 2001-2009.  These talks were largely informal and light-hearted.  Over time we became better friends, and our dialog continued covering a wide range of subjects.   Some of these were “big picture” conversations about weighty matters like philosophy, religion, and politics, while others were more trivial light-hearted observations on the state of the world.  We also spoke frequently about teaching, Art, and specifically the what, how, and why of making “good” Art. Needless to say we found many areas of common ground and a few that we agreed to disagree on.  Our friendship strengthened.

By 2007 it became apparent that my time at Joliet Junior College would soon come to a close.  It was around this time that Joe suggested we try collaborating on a sculptural piece.  This was not unprecedented, due to an incident that occurred several years earlier As Gallery director at Joliet Junior College, Joe had invited me to have a one person show at the school’s Laura Sprague Gallery.  In the process of installing the show, one of my wall sculptures was damaged (a subject Joe is still reticent to talk about).  About the same time, my then-girlfriend and I became engaged and soon after were married.  I  pestered Joe, informing him that in civilized society it is common practice to give friends a wedding present to mark the occasion.  He took the hint, and in time, the damaged piece from my one man show (which Joe told me he would “fix”) was re-imagined and integrated into a wall sculpture commemorating our wedding. The piece “Jim & Terry” was presented to us on  our first anniversary.

Our collaborative effort began to build steam throughout 2008 and 2009. Joe and I work very differently from one another. My process has been dictated by the methods and flow of the ceramic process.  Joe is a more intuitive worker, assembling fairly thematic sculptures from a vast trove of objects that he has been collecting for the past 40 years.   Initially the sculptures we made were utilizing castoffs of mine that I was not interested in incorporating into my own personal work.  These “salvaged” parts invariably became the superstructure or armature that we then altered or added parts to in order to complete the piece.  Some of the added parts came from Joe and his studio, and other parts I made depending on the needs of the piece.  The decisions we made about what, where, and sometimes how to do something were really just conversations.  Like an improvised performance, we’d each advocate for a particular vision in a piece and then make decisions about which direction to go.  I analogize it to  an ensemble band where each musician plays as part of the group, but certain songs may spotlight one member’s contribution over another, even though the whole band is playing the same tune. 

Currently our process has changed slightly due to geographical distance. Phone calls and digital images have been the primary method of communication, with deconstructed pieces being shipped back and forth until one or the other of us completes the final assembly. 

James R. White