Published: September 4, 2001
The Ceramics of Brother Thomas on View at the Springfield Museum of Fine Arts
SPRINGFIELD, MASS.in “: Ceramics of Brother Thomas.”
“” will trace the artist’s achievements in form and glaze over the last three decades. The show will include 120 objects borrowed from private and public collections, and will feature tea bowls, platters, canteens, vases of various shapes, and his recent “Millennial Eggs,” large egg-shaped vessels with a variety of glazes.
Brother Thomas Bezanson is a self-taught potter who, until 1983, was a member of the Benedictine Monastery of Weston Priory, Vt. He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1929.
He graduated from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1950 and began making pottery in 1953. He traveled and studied in Europe in the late 1950s. While in London in 1959, recuperating from a stubborn case of bronchitis, he had a chance encounter on a park bench with a “black clothed stranger” who gave him a small book about monasticism that included a reference to Weston Priory. He wrote to the monastery and soon entered the religious community as a postulant.
The Priory valued hospitality, simplicity, and meaningful work, including artistic pursuits such as music composition, woodworking, enameling, and binding and restoring books. Brother Thomas was encouraged to develop his passion for pottery making, and the sale of his simple vessels became a source of income for the monastery.
The abbot also sent him to the University of Ottawa to study philosophy so that he could return to teach at the monastery. In 1978, his fellow monks supported him in an eight-week trip to Japan to observe and meet with six of that country’s master potters who were designated Living National Treasures. Since 1985, Brother Thomas has been artist-in-residence with the Benedictine Sisters at Mount Saint Benedict in Erie, Penn.
All of these experiences – the simplicity and solitude of the monastic life, his firm grounding in Western theology and philosophy, and his exposure to the aesthetic traditions of China and Japan – have informed his work. Although the artist has worked in both earthenware and porcelain, Brother Thomas has perfected his technique in porcelain.
He is recognized for the simplicity of his forms and the quality and variety of his glazes. He was especially intrigued with ancient Chinese glaze techniques, many of which had been lost over the years. He has experimented with a variety of natural substances in his glazes – ash from various woods, copper, iron, rare mineral deposits – to create the copper red, celadon, iron yellow, black and white, and Honan Tenmoku finishes for which he is celebrated.
The first museum exhibition of his ceramics was held in 1972 at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum in Springfield.
Supplementing the exhibition will be large-scale photographs of Brother Thomas at work; a video, produced by Pucker Gallery, which details his early work and describes his life and philosophy; and an exhibition catalogue.
The Museum of Fine Arts is at the Quadrangle at the corner of State and Chestnut Streets. Hours are Wednesday through Friday, noon to 5 pm; and Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 4 pm. For information, 413-263-6800, extension 312.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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