Joanie Turbek

Unstoppable force of our nature





Ceramic, Plywood, Spray Paint, Hot Glue and Legs

A miniature ceramic forest sits in the gallery. During the opening reception, participants are invited to take a tree. One at a time, they gently snap their tree free while others watch the performance. Participants are encouraged to talk and have fun while interacting with the piece, blissfully destroying the source of their amusement.

The Cloud Piece



TheCloud from JoanieTurbek on Vimeo.


Christmas lights, netting, unistrut, zip ties, electronics

The Cloud Piece is a canopy built from Christmas lights that have been clustered so that they create a singular mass. The piece builds electricity until it’s charge is released, reverberating through the canopy in an uncontrolled manner. This outpouring of energy activates sections of lights as it dissipates. The sounds of the electromechanical switches flipping are miked and amplified, creating an audible manifestation of the energy’s movement through the piece. The tangle of lights draws a visual connection to images of clouds in our atmosphere, electrical impulses in our brain and modern technological systems. The viewer is encouraged to lay under the piece to appreciate the outpouring of energy, both violent and beautiful.




icebergs from JoanieTurbek on Vimeo.


Reclaimed materials

This work was created as part of the Recycled Artist in Residence(RAIR) program with Revolution Recovery in North Philadelphia. The Icebergs were conceived as a response to the environment that they were created from, a scrapyard, and the greater natural environment. The materials in this recycling yard drew attention to the waste and lack of reusability of some materials while shining a light on the reusability of others.

Destruction by Design


DestructionByDesign from JoanieTurbek on Vimeo.


Ceramics, wood, epoxy

A ceramic tree stands in the gallery during a busy opening, The tree is in full bloom with warmly colored flowers covering its branches. For five dollars, the gallery goers are allowed the opportunity to “pick” one of the flowers by breaking the fragile porcelain branch that holds it to the tree. The flowers are sold throughout the evening until they have all been removed. The tree will remain on display until the end of the show.

Participants will be invited to approach the tree in small groups. They may take their time looking through the branches until they find the perfect flower to pick. They will gently snap the flowers free while other gallery goers watch their performance. Participants are encouraged to talk and have fun while interacting with the piece, blissfully destroying the source of their amusement.

Go with the Flow

3 GoWithTheFlow from JoanieTurbek on Vimeo.

7′ x 7′ x 8′
Wood, motor, plastic bags, pennies

The viewer walks onto a round platform. Suspended above the walkway just up to the viewers head is a field of plastic bags each of which is filled with 10 pennies. The bags are suspended by a central post that is slowly rotating in a clockwise direction. The viewer can either walk around the sculpture in pace with the bags, walk faster and push through the bags, or stand still and let the bags flow around them.

Being close to disaster and other things that make you feel lucky

Being Close

Being Close

Being Close

Being Close



8’ x 12’ x 12’
Porcelain, pluming, wood and plastic sheeting

There is a moment, right after a storm shower, when the trees seem to magically keep raining for a few minutes after the sky has cleared. This piece began as a simple attempt to replicate that sensation but through its construction, a much different narrative emerged. This piece as containing two separate and opposing experiences. From outside, the sculpture is somewhat menacing. The pier may be perceived as isolating while the trees are gnarled and bare. Seemingly haphazard construction holds the piece together while containing over 100 gal of water from escaping onto the gallery floor. Surprisingly the sensation of standing under the tarp is soothing. The rain creates a muting sound reminiscent of water falling on a tent. With a simple turn the participant may look to the plastic and see nothing but obscured shapes and colors. The sense of safety is magnified by the participants proximity to what initially had seemed threatening. By surrounding oneself with water you cannot help but acknowledge that you are dry. By walking into a precarious environment, you cannot help but feel lucky that the ground is stable under your feet.

Prosthetic Lawn

Prosthetic LawnProsthetic LawnProsthetic Lawn

8’ x 4’ x 9’
Grass, Plastic Bottles, Wood, Glue.

Prosthetic Lawn is used to recreate the experience of lying on the grass in an indoor space. It is portable and has been installed in galleries, on rooftops, and in other places where a permanent patch of grass would not be feasible. Prosthetic Lawn comes equipped with a humidifier to replicate the experience of lying on the grass in the early morning and a heat light to replicate lying in the grass midday.

The Good Friend Project

The Good Friend ProjectThe Good Friend ProjectThe Good Friend Project

Slip cast porcelain, packing materials

No matter how hard I try, I never have enough time to be both a good friend and keep up my studio practice. In an effort to be more efficient I created the piece The Good Friend Project. I sent a mass email to all of my friends asking for their mailing address and birth date. I then made a mold of a real birthday cake and cast enough for everyone who responded. I boxed up one cake per person, and stamped each box with the words DO NOT OPEN UNTIL and then the addressees birthday. Finally, I brought all of the boxes to the post office and sent them all out. Thereby fulfilling my birthday commitments for the entire year.

Making Babies With Your Friends It’s More Fun When It’s Pretend

Created for The Souvenir Shop.

As a Philadelphia resident, I have found myself explaining the NCECA conference to quite a few non-ceramicists this year. After the initial description of shows, exhibitions, and vendors I feel compelled to include that there is a lot of drinking, shared hotel rooms, and college kids on spring break as well. This got me thinking that there are probably a lot of people that get pregnant at NCECA every year. In many ways, a child conceived at an event is the perfect souvenir. The parents of that child will always remember when and where the conference took place. They will also never forget, at least a few, details from the week. Because it is not advisable to mark every occasion with a baby I have created this piece to act in its stead. Although it is possible to put this baby together by yourself, I suggest working on it with a friend.

Duck Under or People that Play Hard to Get, Always Get the Most Attention

Duck Under or People that Play Hard to Get, Always Get the Most Attention

Clay, concrete, foam, wood, vent pipe, mixed media
3′ x 3′ x 8′

This sculpture attempts to offer the participant a moment of respite in a crowded room. Ironically the act of trying to avoid interaction by using this sculpture will often cause the participant to be the center of attention.

Clay vs. Cupcakes




When you cast a piece of food that object is lost, it can no longer be eaten. Sometimes after I cast something that looked really tasty I wonder if it was worth it. I am not questioning the value of my work, its just that cupcakes are really good, and I would probably rather eat a cupcake than look at one.

I decided to bring this question to a larger audience. I cast a basket of cupcakes and went out to a few bakeries to see if people would rather buy a real cupcake or a porcelain cupcake for the same price ($2.50).

Most people just wanted to eat a cupcake.

Lift block slowly, please use caution

Lift block slowly, Please use caution

Porcelain, concrete, pulleys, rope

One day, quite unexpectedly, my boyfriend broke up with me because he loved someone else. That night I lay on a friends couch, trying hard to fall asleep. At about 3am I had a vision of a sculpture in which a concrete block was the counterbalance to a large cluster of heated potatoes. The sculpture was configured so that when you lifted the block, the potatoes hit you on the back of the head.

It wasn’t until I made the piece, which is titled Lift block slowly, Please use caution, that I realized how clearly it demonstrated how I felt. Because the 55lb block of concrete was acting as ballast to the potatoes, it was incredibly easy to lift. If the viewer did not heed the advice of the title, they would lift the block too quickly and get clobbered on the back of the head.

I braced myself for questions about my personal life that I was sure would follow. Strangely enough, no one guessed. With a little bit of perspective I can now see that even though I used my personal life as a guide to make his particular sensation, it is not personal work. This piece has as much to do with being dumped, as a tanning booth has to do with your last Florida vacation.

Turkey Traction: What your head would feel like, minus the weight of one turkey

Turkey Traction: What your head would feel like, minus the weight of one turkey

Porcelain, pipe, pulleys, bike helmet, rope

This piece was made shortly after I got out of a difficult relationship. It is a simple piece comprised of one slip cast turkey, one bike helmet, and a chair with casters embedded in concrete so that they cannot roll. The bike helmet is connected to the turkey by a rope, which is threaded through a series of pulleys so that when the participant puts on the bike helmet and sits down, the 8lb turkey is lifted. A human head weighs between 8 – 12 lbs. it could be described as a device that effectively removes the weight of your head, or as a device hat shows you what your head feels like minus the weight of one turkey.

Handle with care, do not leave unattended

Handle with care, do not leave unattended

Clay, heating elements

I was in graduate school when my brother’s first child was born. I flew to NY to visit her and spent six days sitting on the couch with a baby in my arms and my family by my side. When I came back to school, I felt lost. Our lives were so artificially free from everything that I had experienced that week, no family, no children, love only as an aside. There was nothing to cradle there and we were the worse for it.

My niece was far away, so I went looking for other baby-sized objects. I came across a turkey in the supermarket that seemed about right. I cast it in a low fire slip, treated its surface with terra sigillata, and outfitted it with heating elements from an old appliance. It was a warm object with a smooth feel, a good weight, and it made a nice humming sound when plugged in. When it was shown I invited my peers to hold the turkey, to enjoy its heat and weight. It was a lesson in social dynamics.

Apparently some people find it enjoyable to cradle turkeys in public and some do not.

Artist Statement

My interactive pieces function both as sculpture as well as props for social interaction. Through participation, the viewer’s relationship to the work changes. You are not generally encouraged to approach fine art with the same candor that you would approach exercise equipment. A personal, unassuming relationship with my work is encouraged. I feel that this is the most direct way my background in functional ceramics has influenced me. Its tactile nature instilled in me a belief that there is a truth and honesty to objects we can approach and understand in a physical way.


Click here to download my resume JoanieTurbekResume

917.796.1619 . .
2005, Cranbrook Academy of Art Bloomfield Hills, MI
Masters of Fine Arts
2001, Alfred University Alfred, NY
Bachelors of Fine Art, Graduated Cum Laude
2007-2011, The Clay Studio Philadelphia, Pa
Resident Artist
2008, Red Dirt Studios Mount Rainier, MD
Visiting Artist
2005-2007, Hunter College New York, NY
Artist in Residence
2005, Daimler Chrysler Emerging Artist Award Potsdamer Platz, Berlin
Award Finalist
2004, David Zimmerman Merit Scholarship, Cranbrook Academy of Art
Merit award chosen by Artists in Residence of each department
2001-2003, Hunter College New York, NY
Artist in Residence
2001, Divisional Honors in Ceramics Alfred, NY
Alfred University
2009-2010, The Clay Studio Philadelphia, PA
Ceramics Instructor: Expressive Mold Making, Studio Sampler, Beginning Wheel Throwing
2009, Red Dirt Studios Mount Rainier, MD
Lecture and Mold Making demo
2008, Paint Creek Arts Center Rochester, MI
Ceramics Instructor: Hand Building and Surface Treatments, Children’s Clay
2007, Earthworks Pottery New York, NY
Ceramics Instructor: Beginning Wheel Throwing
2011-Present, School of Visual Arts New York, NY
Admissions Counselor
2008-2011, The Clay Studio Philadelphia, PA
Manager of Educational Programming
2006-2007, Phil Fraley Productions Paterson, NJ
Senior Exhibitions Fabricator
2010, Arlington Art Center Arlington, VA
Complete Failure
2009, Abington Art Center Abington, PA
Being close to disaster
2009, The Clay Studio Philadelphia, PA
Minor Malfunction
2008, Haverford School Haverford, PA
Artless Intention
2012, Delaware Center for Contemporary Art Wilmington, DE
2011, The Clay Studio Philadelphia, PA
Hello, Goodbye
2011, Pottery Northwest Seattle, WA
Handle with Care
2011, Little Berlin Philadelphia, PA
Materialism of Encounter
2011, Old School Studios Philadelphia, PA
Experiential, Environmental, Educational
2010, The Clay Studio Philadelphia, PA
Of this Century
2010, Richard Stockton College Galloway, NJ
2009, The Ice Box NCECA, Phoenix, AZ
The Margins: Non-traditional approaches to clay
2009, Arlington Art Center Arlington, VA
Unlimited Edition
2007, Hunter College New York, NY
The Point of Contact
2010, Art Star NCECA, Philadelphia, PA
The Souvenir Shop
2009, The Clay Studio Reed Smith Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Playing the Field
2010, City Paper
Last Chance by Holly Otterbein
2010, Ceramics Art and Perception
The Margins, A theory of resistance in contemporary Ceramics by Adam Welch
2009, Philadelphia Weekly
The Souvenir Shop by PW Staff
2009, Philadelphia Home
Artist in Residence by Lauren McCutcheon