- Photo by Katherine Manning
- Sitter with head in hands, a bronze by Joy Brown in Manhattan, part of the exhibit “Joy Brown on Broadway.”
The still, rounded figures of Joy Brown's exhibit are in stark relief to the brusque bustle of uptown Manhattan. Nine massive bronze sculptures repose between 72nd Street and 166th Street as part of the Broadway Mall Association's public art program, in collaboration with Morrison Gallery in Kent, Connecticut, which represents Brown.
There is a gentleness and innocence to Brown's colossal beings. On medians, in plazas, and outside subway stations, these androgynous sculptures invite human interaction—kids clamber, tourists pose, dogs mark—while the statues sit with patient curiosity. "They are how I'd like to be—calm, open, aware, not nervous or self-conscious," Brown says.
The daughter of a missionary doctor, Brown grew up in Japan. The country's aesthetic and culture directly influence her work. She recalls her family's book of Haniwa, small clay warrior figures with cut out eyes and mouths, depicting simple but complex expressions. After completing a traditional Japanese ceramics apprenticeship, Brown began her career as a potter, ultimately bringing her craft to the US.
Brown has spent the past seven years working in Shanghai to build these gentle giants. She is delighted by the public's reaction, with hundreds of #joybrownonbroadway posts on Instagram. "It has been a blast," she says. "Everybody is responding to them. People imitating them, sitting in their laps. It's just been crazy wonderful."
"Joy Brown on Broadway" will be exhibited through November. An exhibition of smaller clay figures that the bronze sculptures are based on is on display through October 1 at the Hudson Beach Glass Gallery in Beacon.