As we strolled around ceramic artiste Jordan Van Sewell’s yard in Winnipeg, Manitoba we couldn’t help but exclaim, “What the…?”, or “What is that?”, or “Hey, take a look at this!”. Amongst the gardens of flowers, grapes, vegetables and crack corn (yes, actual corn stalks growing through the asphalt crack), one will get a glimpse of the many interesting collectibles, found items and projects that decorate his yard. Stepping into his studio and workshop the intrigued visitor will then be met with many of Jordan’s signature ceramic pieces; icons such as Charlie Brown and David Bowie, the devil bathing with his trusty three headed dog beside him, various humanoids and anthropomorphic animals, his robot and skeleton statue minions peering into the “hell hole” dug in the back yard, as well as a good selection of creepy and sinister looking characters. Welcome to the eclectic world of Jordan Van Sewell and his art work.
Jordan started his professional art career after finishing art school in 1979, and it was these rudimentary skills learned in clay that had given him, as he puts it, “a whole new vocabulary”. Things that meant something to him but that were not expressed, or that could not be acquired elsewhere, could now be created from his own interpretation of the world into his clay pieces, with an enhanced twist to make for a “better read”. The plight and the fortunes of the human construct that Jordan characterizes in his work are meant to evoke empathy and humour, and he observes that the more people become familiar with his work the more the subtle nature of their concepts will be revealed. On the flip side, some of his pieces are just for fun.
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One look at Jordan’s big, burly, growly, flames-painted Harley Davidson, complete with…doilies? painted on the back luggage carriers, and you will know that here’s a guy that walks to the beat of his own drum. Being unconventional has always been a part of Jordan’s life, sometimes out of necessity, and it shows in the body of work he has created depicting variations of pop-culture symbols and the human condition. As we looked at his collection of ceramic characters they can’t help but make you smile, chuckle or ponder the symbolism, and if these creations don’t clue you in to Jordan’s sense of humour then speaking with him certainly will. His deadpan humour flowed seamlessly in and out of “serious” discussion, occasionally requiring a double-take from us to see if he was pulling our leg, like when he introduced his cat Pearl who keeps the mice and small children in check.
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Jordan reveals that he started out with the same struggles that any aspiring artist goes through (more ramen noodles?), but despite that he knows that being an artist was always something that he was born to do, rendering himself as he says, “virtually unemployable”. A big part of the “high” is not only the therapeutic process of creating his art, and the magic in the mixture between the intellect, skills and excitement, but also seeing his work in other peoples’ homes and how it has affected them. The significance for them strengthens his own feelings about his body of work. All said, Jordan Van Sewell’s thirty seven years as a professional artist, and loving it to this day, is a great testament to the qualities that got him to where he is today; perseverance and being true to yourself.
We invite you to meet Jordan Van Sewell in our video interview and to help spread the word about him and his art work through social media and email, and a nice comment is always welcome too.