Artist On Tour: Peter B. Jones

 

STONEWARE POTTERY AND SCULPTURE
12970 Versailles-Plank Road, Versailles, NY 14168
Ph. 716-532-5993
 
   For Peter B. Jones, art is more than just a means of creative expression.  It’s a lifestyle, a history lesson. His roots in art began at an early age, and in the last 50 years, he became internationally known for his pottery and ceramic sculptures. Now for the sixth year, the Seneca-Onondaga native returns to Routes to Art, excited to share his art, stories and heritage.
 
   What type of pottery and ceramic sculptures do you create?
   I create both pottery and ceramic sculptures based on life experiences, based on Iroquois style. It’s mostly figures of different people - natives generally, but it can be anyone.
 
   What inspired you to become an artist?
   I attended a high school in Santa Fe, New Mexico where they taught Indian art. It was the only one in the country.  At the time, we were living on the reservation here in New York; my mother had seven children, and it was tough on her. My sister went the year before.  She liked it, and I went the following year. It wasn’t hard to convince my mom to let me go away to school. That’s where I started. I progressed well, and have been an artist for over 50 years.
 
   What has been the driving force behind your artwork?  What propelled your creativity?
   The one thing that really helped was a summer workshop through the Archie Bray Foundation in Helena, Montana. It’s a workshop for ceramic potters and clay workers that are from around the world. I’ve attended it once just out of high school, and I probably learned more in that one summer than any other time.
 
   How has your artwork changed in the last 50 years?
   I’m probably a little more aware of my identity, and I’m also better equipped to create what I want to express.
 
   What is a challenge you face as an artist?
   A lot of times Indian art produces what will sell. It doesn’t necessarily express ideas about contemporary times, which is what I feel we should do to move forward. Everyone wants to be comfortable. They don’t want to be reminded of the genocide and internments that went on in our history. We’re denying our history by not wanting to remember.
   Another challenge is being categorized, pigeon-holed as an Indian artist rather than an artist. It limits what we can do. People expect to see Indian art, whatever their perception.  It’s what they expect to see.
 
   You’ve attended Routes to Art for several years. What do you enjoy about the event?
   I look forward to meeting people and introducing them to a different type of art. I have stuff that isn’t quite commercial - it’s my bread and butter line - but there’s also a history lesson in some of my art.
 
   What can visitors expect to experience at your site?
   They can see what I am working on, what I have worked on, and ask any questions they may have about Indian heritage that perhaps they were afraid to ask before. My son is also an artist. It’s a lifestyle.
 
   The Routes to Art brochure indicates you incorporate “Indian humor” into your pieces. How do you do this?
   [Laughs]. It’s the way we think. We have a different type of humor. It can be dry and I think that it comes from a place of depression or oppression - you develop a sense of humor about a situation, and that comes through in some of my art. Some of it is pretty dark.
 
   Can you elaborate on the darkness of your art? Why darkness?
   Some of the subject matter of my art is pretty dark, and that’s a product of different things that affect our lifestyle - politics, racism, a little bit of everything.
 
   How do visitors respond to your artwork?
   Most guests are surprised that this type of art is available in New York, in this area. It’s native art, and most people associate that with the Southwest.
 
   What do you hope that visitors take away from Routes to Art?
   I hope they see that the art lifestyle of the Iroquois is not dead - it’s a dynamic society, creating artwork, much as it did throughout the times.
 
   What is something that would surprise people to know about you as an artist?
   I think the fact that I am an international artist and my work has been all over the place. I just got back from Germany. I’m giving it all over the world.
 
   How have people learned about you internationally?
   Lately? It’s been through the internet. That’s helped a lot. I used to do a lot of shows out West. I do not do that as much anymore, and I don’t really have any gallery representation. The internet has helped me because more people see my work, like through the Etsy site.
 
   What are your plans for the future? Do you think you’ll ever retire?
   I cannot retire. Artists don’t retire.
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