Posted by Cindy Bracker, Communications Director
I live in Los Angeles, California in the historic area called Angelino Heights, which is a neighborhood of Echo Park. It’s about 2 miles north of Downtown. I am Professor of Visual Art and head of the ceramics area at California State University, Northridge where I’ve taught for the last sixteen years.
What do you like most about your job? OR What do you like most about where you live?
The minority population at CSUN constitutes a majority of our 40,000-plus student body, of which 30 percent are first-generation college students. Approximately half of CSUN undergraduates are from low-income families. I love my job because I get to work with one of the most diverse populations in the country and draw from my own experiences as an ethnic minority from a working class family. Living in Los Angeles also allows me to be surrounded by the stimulating and diverse environment that many large urban centers can boast. Aside from the traffic, I feel very lucky.
I was born in Ubon Ratchatani, Thailand. I completed grammar school in Dracut, a small town in Massachusetts. I then finished high school in Kearney, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City, where my immediate family still lives. With such deep roots there, I’m especially jazzed about NCECA celebrating its 50th Anniversary in one of my hometowns!
What was your childhood nickname?
I was not lucky enough to have a nickname bestowed upon me but my actual name worked well… “Patsy”… I got blamed for everything! I’m named after my father, Patrick.
How did you first find out about NCECA?
When I was an undergraduate at Missouri State University it was just an “automatic” thing to do…follow the poster and the NCECA postings to the other side of the rainbow, or whatever exotic locale NCECA was being held. Of course, because my main cohorts in the studio were going — Gary Wilcox and Nathan Falter, two undergraduate students also studying with Professor Keith Ekstam – there’s no way I could stand by and watch them going without going myself.
Tell me a story about your first conference (including city and/or year)
My first NCECA was the 1994 conference in New Orleans. I drove down with a couple of friends from Springfield through Austin, TX. With pennies between us, one of the nights we camped on the beach somewhere on the coast before rolling into New Orleans. My car got buried in the sand and we had to replace the rotors on the car before continuing the journey. It was right after Mardi Gras and my friends felt bad for me because as a very young looking, shaved headed, androgynous looking art student, it was difficult to land any beads.
What’s your favorite color?
Gray and grey, I just can’t decide which I like better.
What or who inspired you to get involved more deeply in the organization, and what was your “entry point” to the board.
Paul Wandless is a good friend and a champion of diversity. It was through our conversations and his example and support that I was inspired to run for a Director at Large position in 2003. I used to fancy myself a rabble-rouser back then and decided to put my money where my mouth was, boy was I naive. Working with the board at that time taught me so much.
As Past President, I am in the last remaining months of a presidential cycle that began in 2010. My primarily responsibility is the nominations, awards and fellowship review process as well as helping to organize our Past Masters session.
What’s your favourite thing about being on the board?
They say that the most successful relationships are built upon shared goals. I’ve had my own special bond with each of the individual board members that I’ve gotten to work with. There is a certain polish that this kind of work does. My most favorite thing has been watching the personal and professional evolution of my colleagues in service as we worked toward those shared goals. I have built long-lasting relationships with people whom I might not otherwise have had the opportunity to know. I respect and cherish them all.
What’s your favorite part of your specific position?
Playing a small part in acknowledging the superheroes in our field and their work is such an honor. Supporting our members through NCECA Graduate, Regina Brown Undergraduate and Multicultural Fellowships has been an incredible experience and watching the educational programming of Past Masters is one of the most emotional parts of the conference. It is ALL my favorite!
Who are some of your mentors, and how have they shaped you as a person/artist? (both in and out of the organization/field)
Victor Spinski was the first person that championed me as a young misfit. His example impacted me in immeasurable ways and I think about him every day. Glenda Taylor and all the women who served as NCECA president continue to shape my everyday perspective and values – Marge Levy, Mary Jane Edwards, Anna Callouri Holcombe, Elaine Henry, Susan Filley and Deborah Bedwell – many of whom I’ve had the honor of working with in service. They are beacons to me each for their own specific way of navigating the world. Sometimes you have to see someone do something before you have the wherewithal to know you can do it too. It was Keith Williams that thought I might be a good NCECA president and I blame him for everything. He is my “Patsy.”
Tell me about your work as an artist.
I love the ceramic process and deep down I am a potter. Eventually I will get there. For now, my focus has been on creating immersive environments that capture my perceptions of the urban landscape. I use modular units to create something I think of as monumental, piece by piece, rather than one piece in and of itself. My large multi-part installations grow and reconfigure each time they are installed in a space. This summer I’ll install 50,000 pieces at Long Beach Museum of Art.
Currently, I’ve been investigating 3D printing by digitizing my sculptural work and printing it in scaled colored PLA plastic versions. My newest piece and the work I’m most excited about is titled Rabbit Hole at the Lawrence Art Center in Lawrence, Kansas. It totals at only about 900 pieces. Some of the objects are thrown and hand built; some are slip casts from molds that were made of work that was thrown and hand built. Those objects are intermingled with almost eight hundred 3D PLA plastic prints at various scales of one of the thrown and handbuilt pieces in the installation that was digitized. Some of the objects come directly from my hands, some once removed and some twice removed.
Pistachio because that is my father’s favorite, really, for no other reason. I’m not sure I even like the taste of it. I really like strawberry. But I like gelato the best. And, my most recent favorite is shaved snow, birthday cake flavor with cream on the top. This treat cannot be found in Los Angeles – Kauai ruined me for life.
If you were a glaze, which one would you be and why?
ANY Shino. When my students use it, it ALWAYS crawls in the weirdest places, chips off their work before firing, shivers, pits, blisters or pinholes during the firing or has any number of other issues—it’s just NEVER quite right but for some reason the students think they have something special in their hands that magically went “wrong” just for them. Crazy cats.
What are a few of your hobbies?
Running, spinning, gym, decorative terrier-mix herder, family, home restoration and being a good plus one.