Paul S. Briggs

Intuitive Responses: Poetic Justice in Clay

February 13 – March 13, 2021

Paul S. Briggs

Profiling, 2021

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

13h x 8w x 10d in

Refuted Vessel




Paul S. Briggs

Systemic 1, 2021

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

13h x 10w x 6.50d in

Refuted Vessel



Paul S. Briggs

Arrested Development 1, 2021

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

13h x 10w x 6.50d in

Refuted Vessel



Paul S. Briggs

Celebrate with me (Lucille Clifton), 2021

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

12.50h x 9.50w x 4.25d in




"won't you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed."


Lucille Clifton

Paul S. Briggs

Poem N0. 10 (I’m Here) (Sonia Sanchez), 2021

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

12.25h x 7.50w x 6d in




"You keep saying you were always there
waiting for me to see you.
you said that once
on the wings of a pale green butterfly
you rode across san francisco’s hills
and touched my hair as i caressed
a child called militancy
you keep saying you were always there

holding my small hand
as I walked
unbending Indiana streets i could not see around
and you grew a black mountain
of curves and i turned
and became soft again
you keep saying you were always there

repeating my name softly
as i slept in
slow Pittsburgh blues and you made me
sweat nite dreams that danced
and danced until morning
rained yo/red delirium

you keep saying you were always there
you keep saying you were always there
will you stay love
now that I am here?"


Sonia Sanchez

Paul S. Briggs

I’ve known rivers (Langston Hughes), 2021

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

15.25h x 10w x 5d in



"I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
     flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
     went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
     bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers."


Langston Hughes

Paul S. Briggs

Momma’s Sayings (Harryette Mullen), 2021

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

12.50h x 11w x 5.50d in




"Momma had words for us:

We were "crumb crushers,"

"eating machines,"

"bottomless pits."

She made us charter members

of the bonepickers’ club,

saying, "Just don't lot your eyes get bigger

than your stomachs."

Saying, "Take all you want,

but eat all you take."

Saying, “I'm not made of money, you know,

and the man at tile Safeway

don't give away groceries for free."


She trained us not to leave lights on

“a11 over the house,"

because "electricity cots money –

so please turn the light off when you leave a room

and take the white man’s hand out of my pocket."


When we wore small

she called our feet "ant mashers,”

but when we'd outgrow our shoes,

our feet became "platforms."

She told us we must be growing big feet

to support some big heavyset women

(like our grandma Tiddly).


When she had to buy us new underwear

to replace the old ones full of holes,

she'd swear we were growing razor blades in our behinds,

"you tear these drawers up so fast."


Momma had words for us, alright:

She called us "the wrecking crew."

She said our untidy bedroom

looked like "a cyclone struck it."


Our dirty fingernails she called "victory gardens."

And when we'd come in from playing outside

she'd tell us, "You smell like iron rust." She'd say,

"Go take a bath

and get some of that funk off or you."

But when the water ran too long in the tub

she'd yell "That's enough water to wash an elephant."

And after the bath she'd say,

"Be sure and grease those ashy legs."

She'd lemon creme our elbows

and pull the hot comb

through "these touch kinks on your head."


Momma had lots of words for us,

her never quite perfect daughters,

the two brown pennies she wanted to polish

so we'd shine like dimes."


Harryette Mullen

Paul S. Briggs

Caged Birds (Maya Angelou), 2021

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

13.25h x 7.25w x 5.50d in



"A free bird leaps

on the back of the wind   

and floats downstream   

till the current ends

and dips his wing

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.


But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and   

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.


The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.


The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn

and he names the sky his own


But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   

so he opens his throat to sing.


The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom."

Maya Angelou


Paul S. Briggs

(Audre Lorde), 2021

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

14.75h x 8w x 5.50d in





"The difference between poetry and rhetoric

is being ready to kill


instead of your children.


I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds

and a dead child dragging his shattered black

face off the edge of my sleep

blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders

is the only liquid for miles

and my stomach

churns at the imagined taste while

my mouth splits into dry lips

without loyalty or reason

thirsting for the wetness of his blood

as it sinks into the whiteness

of the desert where I am lost

without imagery or magic

trying to make power out of hatred and destruction

trying to heal my dying son with kisses

only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.


A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens

stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood

and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and

there are tapes to prove it. At his trial

this policeman said in his own defense

“I didn't notice the size nor nothing else

only the color”. And

there are tapes to prove that, too.


Today that 37 year old white man

with 13 years of police forcing

was set free

by eleven white men who said they were satisfied

justice had been done

and one Black Woman who said

“They convinced me” meaning

they had dragged her 4'10'' black Woman's frame

over the hot coals

of four centuries of white male approval

until she let go

the first real power she ever had

and lined her own womb with cement

to make a graveyard for our children.


I have not been able to touch the destruction

within me.

But unless I learn to use

the difference between poetry and rhetoric

my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold

or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire

and one day I will take my teenaged plug

and connect it to the nearest socket

raping an 85 year old white woman

who is somebody's mother

and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed

a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time

“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”


Audre Lorde

Paul S. Briggs

Windflower, pear glaze, anemone pinch

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

12.50h x 11w x 10.50d in



Paul S. Briggs

Windflower, double cuttle tentacle pinch, tri colored

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

12.50h x 11w x 10.50d in



Paul S. Briggs

Windflower, leaf pinch, double cuttle

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

12.50h x 11w x 10.50d in



Paul S. Briggs

Pure Pinching Scholar’s form

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

12.50h x 11w x 10.50d in



Paul S. Briggs

Pure Pinching- Coelenterate

Glazed stoneware, oxidation, c6

14.75h x 8w x 5.50d in



Paul S. Briggs

Small Sculpture, 2021


3.50h x 3.50w x 3.50d in



Paul S. Briggs

Small Sculpture, 2021


2.75h x 3.50w x 2.50d in



Paul S. Briggs

Small Sculpture, 2021


4h x 4w x 4d in



Paul S. Briggs

Small Sculpture, 2021


3.75h x 5.50w x 3.25d in



Press Release

More artwork to come

Lucy Lacoste Gallery will present a solo exhibition of new works by the Massachusetts artist Paul S. Briggs following the recent announcement of the gallery’s representation of his Knot Vessels and Pinched Forms. The show, Intuitive Responses: Poetic Justice in Clay, is on view February 13- March 13, 2021. The center piece of this exhibition will be six sculptures, each inspired by a specific poem written by a noted Black poet.  These poets include Lucille Clifton, Sonia Sanchez, Langston Hughes, Harryette Mullen, Maya Angelou and Audre Lorde.  A sculpture inspired by Amanda Gorman and her inauguration poem is in the making and may be ready for the opening.

Paul S. Briggs Artist Statement: Poetry Series

The poetry series came about as a way to look for hope and strength during these difficult times and their impact on people of color. It is my work toward finding courage in light of my ongoing work concerning legal violence and incarceration, the disproportionate number of people impacted by the pandemic, and the awakening the siege on the capital brought about as we witnessed the different manner in which people protesting under the banner of Black Lives Matter received versus those flying banners of white supremacy. What became clear was the degree to which black poetry included so much pain and power

Briggs’ forte is bringing issues of the modern Black experience to life through his sculpture.  He has written in depth on matters of race and social justice. An artist, professor, philosopher and former pastor, Briggs was first known for making meditative pinch pots.  A few years ago, realizing the social injustice of the American prison system, he felt compelled to channel these feelings into series of abstract sculpture. The first series was the Cell Personae, followed by the Knot Vessels, and now the Poetry Series. 

To accompany this exhibition there will be a poetry reading, in which the poems are read and the artist talks about the related sculpture.  


Paul Briggs, born in 1963, grew up in the Hudson Valley of Newburgh, NY taking his first ceramics class in 9th grade. He eventually landed at the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University. Paul is an artist-teacher with balanced training in Ceramics, Sculpture, and Education. He earned an MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art, an MSED from Alfred University and a PhD in Art Education/Educational Theory and Policy from the Pennsylvania State University. He has taught at all educational levels and in various contexts including the Penland and Haystack Schools of Craft. Recently he was awarded a South Eastern Minnesota Arts Council Grant for the installation, Cell Persona: The Impact of Incarceration on Black Lives. Paul was an Artist in Residence at the Harvard Ceramics Program (2019-2020) and an Associate Professor of Art Education at MassArt.

Briggs’ work can be found in the collections of Flaten Art Museum, St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN.; San Angelo Museum of Art, San Angelo, TX; University of Tennessee, Ewing Gallery, Knoxville, TN: Wellesley College Multifaith Center, Wellesley MA and the Pizutti Collection of Columbus Museum of Art. His work will soon become part of collections at the Smithsonian in Washington DC and the Alfred University Ceramic Museum, Alfred, NY.


We are delighted to include the following catalogue essay written by Wayne Higby, the esteemed Artist- Professor of Ceramic Art at Alfred University and Director and Curator of the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum:

Regarding the Sculpture of Paul Briggs: The Poetry Series

Paul S. Briggs is an artist with an engaging biography as well as a unique resume. His Poetry Series now on view at Lucy Lacoste Gallery is composed of six independent ceramic sculptures that are mysterious, beautiful and unsettling. There is an important research narrative behind the inspiration for this series. However, visitors to the gallery will hopefully not rely too heavily on this story as a means to access and potentially codify the work. Knowing before an experience with the actual sculpture will, no doubt, prohibit the deep looking, feeling-thinking of a genuine encounter. Briggs’s work offers far more than the potency at the core of its inspiration.

We should always give ourselves the opportunity to experience without thought -- without the fear of not knowing. In so doing, we allow for a direct, unguarded encounter with the reveal. We become receptive to the deep disclosure held within the ideas, materials and processes of art. Art is the reveal and there is particular as well as universal meaning housed within. Art is not the backdrop that tries to explain it.

Paul Briggs offers an arresting reveal not only to himself, but to all of us who wish to engage the work of an accomplished maker. This body of work has intellectual and emotional depth born of authenticity. Current trends in ceramic art are left by the wayside. There is genuine risk here and the courage to be vulnerable to the uncovering of meaning. With his Poetry Series, the intense quality of Briggs’s ability to integrate idea, material and process becomes a teaching. The end result is contact without complete closure. This condition is a core aspect of all significant works of art and provokes a desire for numerous return encounters.

Glenn Adamson, the independent writer and curator based in New York (and author of the recently published book Craft—An American History), recently wrote about Briggs in his article for Friedman-Benda:

The Boston-based artist Paul S. Briggs has said that ceramics are, for him, a way to philosophize concretely.” In this seemingly contradictory phrase, we already get a sense of his work, in which deep structures of thought and feeling find material equivalents. Briggs’ series Cell Personae exemplifies this approach. It is his personal response to the “other” pandemic raging through America – the mass incarceration of Black people, which is itself an act of grand-scale criminality. The works amount to a firm, resolved protest against this ongoing tragedy. Each is rectilinear, evoking the confining dimensions of a jail cell, and contains within it a nest of serpentine forms. They could be taken as symbolizing the psychic energy of imprisoned individuals - complex thoughts and emotional torment - or perhaps, more optimistically, the inevitability of eventual change. The works are remarkable for re-scripting the basic vocabulary of ceramics (slab construction and coils); Briggs brings to these familiar techniques a wholly new, compressed and clear meaning, of great relevance in this year of reckoning with issues of race in America.




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