Pottery is one of the most ancient of the arts — shards have been found that date back 20,000 years — and the only one which encompasses all of the elements: earth, water, air, and fire. So how, after millennia, could it become high-tech?
Just ask Springs resident Curtis Cox, who designs his unique ceramics on a computer program, then feeds a clay/rubbing alcohol mix into a 3-D printer in his basement to create vases, bowls, and other pieces that resonate with both the primitive and the progressive. He also creates pieces of unisex jewelry — large gemstone cabochons enrobed in waves of laser-cut steel, embedded with tiny precious jewels.
Cox and his husband, Steve Cohen — who is a world-renowned concert lighting designer and painter — will be introducing their new arts collaboration, the Parsons Close Project, in the penthouse of the Aqua Art Miami show at the Aqua Hotel, December 5 through 9.
But first let’s head back to where it all started: scout camp. “In the late ’80s, I worked at a summer camp. I had done a little bit of pottery in junior high art class, but the camp needed a pottery instructor. I started teaching pottery, and it was something that spoke to me. Even as a little kid, looking at the Sears wish book, I always wanted a pottery wheel. And a rock tumbler,” Cox said with a laugh.
But that was sort of put on the back (Bunsen) burner, as Cox majored in chemical engineering with a pre-med emphasis and a technical theater minor in college — “because they all work so well together” — and it wasn’t until years later, when he was taking a stroll through San Francisco’s Chinatown, that his love of ceramics came back to him like a punch in the gut.
It was a not-so-simple blue vase that captivated Cox. “I was instantly enamored with the glaze,” he said. “I was like, ‘How did they do this?’ And then my chemical engineering kicked in and I decided to find out.” He did research into the crystalline glaze done with zinc, and it was at that point that he realized, “Hey, I’m an adult now with money. I can buy things.” And he promptly renewed his ceramics journey, purchasing a kiln and “making stuff,” mostly giveaways, ornaments and such, for friends.
“I use computer-aided design programs to create models which I either print in clay with a 3D printer or cut from sheet metal with a laser. I then use traditional ceramic and jewelry techniques to transform those parts into a final, finished piece. Much of the technology I use in my process is not widely used in the field of ceramics and jewelry,” he stated.
Noted for his profound use of glazes in his ceramics, Cox said, “I try to use color and glaze choice to soften the shape and bring in harmony.” His pieces range from simple vases with twisted lines to geometric “Bucky ball” style bowls.
Cox met Cohen, who was already creating a different kind of art with his lighting design, and the two paired up, eventually marrying and moving to Springs full time. With a 40-plus year career in the music and television industry, Cohen has designed tours and television specials for many of the world’s most prominent music and comedy artists, including (in collaboration with Cox) Billy Joel, Elton John, Reba McEntire, Sugarland, Lenny Kravitz, and Blake Shelton. He has recently shown his large abstract works at the White Room Gallery in Bridgehampton, and is working on a new series, what he calls “gravity” paintings, which will also be on view in the penthouse at Aqua Art Miami.
Cox founded his ceramic studio, Parsons Close Pottery, in 2014, and in 2017, expanded his artisan studio to include his jewelry. He designs the pieces with precious and semi-precious beads, gems, and rock where he cuts and polishes stones — without that Christmas-wish rock tumbler — into cabochons to place in his intricately designed settings made in titanium, silver, and copper. His pottery was recently shown at Salon 66 on Main Street, Sag Harbor.
Cohen and Cox are both excited about their inaugural outing with Parsons Close Project. “They say it’s the highest attended satellite show during Miami Art Week,” Cohen said. “It’s the loose one — people hang out; there’s a DJ, there’s drinks. It’s a lot easier to navigate, instead of going from gallery to gallery to gallery,” he said.
For more information about Steve Cohen’s paintings and assemblages, or Curtis Cox’s jewelry and ceramics, visit www.parsonscloseproject.art. For more info about Aqua Art Miami, visit www.aquaartmiami.com.