Joan Bontempo


My work has grown from traditional forms and methods to experimental techniques, with clay combined with other materials or found objects, sometimes emulating folded cloth, including altered canvases or metal, to non-traditional vessels and more recently to figurative work expressing personal psychology, archetypal forms and spiritual musings.

I seem to have recurring interest in various themes, re-addressing them from time to time. The more I teach about the ancient arts, the more enamored I am with certain art forms from centuries ago… the Greeks and Romans and even before, and the modernists and the abstract expressionists — the movement and inspired poses we see as expression beyond the remnants of the visible form. Beyond the technique, beyond the materials.

My present vision addresses archetypes, defenders and prophets — spirits that are timeless and in ancient mythologies. Think Nike — with no arm, no head and no figure, but with gentle movement and delicate cloth in improbably hard rock. When I put the clay-wrapped foam figure into the kiln, the foam figure burns away, leaving just form and movement — a kind of anti-figure figure formed with clay, slips, lace and canvas, glazed hard with metallic embellishments

Other themes besides spirits include a whirlwind or tornado, or a voluminous wrapped, but empty, container. All hard to hold in content…full of presence nonetheless. Maybe that’s the point.

Associate Professor, Hagerstown Community College, Ceramics and Art history
MFA – Wayne State University, Detroit MI
BFA – University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame IN


Cover and Featured: Fluent Magazine, February-March edition, 2013

Featured in Hagerstown Magazine, Hagerstown MD, The Shepherd Express, Milwaukee WI, The Herald-Mail, Hagerstown, MD, and The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, Milwaukee WI.

Selected Exhibits:

  • NOMA Gallery, Frederick MD, 2017, invitational
  • The Bridge Gallery, Shepherdstown WV, 2013 — 2017 invitationals
  • Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Pyro Protagonists: A Generation of Influential Ceramic Artists, 2014
  • Marin Price Galleries, Chevy Chase, MD, Sculpture Invitational, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012
  • Carbon Gallery, Chambersburg PA
  • Gallery 20, Waynesboro PA ,
  • Artspace, Herndon, VA — Golden Dome Anthology, invitational, 2011
  • Snite Museum of Art, University of Notre Dame, Anagama invitational, 2010
  • Lubeznik Art Center, Michigan City, IN, International Ceramics Invitational
  • Museum of Fine Art, Hagerstown MD, Cumberland Valley Art Exhibit
  • Washington County Arts Council Gallery, Hagerstown, MD
  • Frederick Layton Gallery, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design
  • Lakeside Studio International Artist program
  • University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA, Solo exhibition
  • Canton Art Institute, Canton, OH, 4th National Invitational
  • Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit, MI
  • Downey Museum of Art, Downey CA
  • Navy Pier, Chicago, IL, “New art Forms Exposition
  • Lill Street Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • Nicholls State University, Thibodaux LA


Works in the Collection of:

  • The Leader Foundation, Washington DC
  • The Audubon Society of Western Maryland
  • Carroll College, Waukesha WI
  • The Ogden Company, Milwaukee WI
  • Growth Design Corporation, Milwaukee, WI
  • Lakeside Studios, Lakeside, MI, permanent collection
  • L.Hudson Corporation, Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, Private Collection
  • Museum of Arts and History, Port Huron, MI, Permanent Collection,
  • Clair Community College, Port Huron, MI, Permanent Collection
  • Many Private Collections