Oct. 21, 2008College Heights HeraldWestern Kentucky University
You might find Jason Burnett swallowed in a white apron down in ceramics in the Fine Arts Center any given day.
A mask covers his nose and mouth, but the outline of his smile is visible when a distraction trots through the door. Hes glad to have a reason to take a break from measuring piles of what is the beginnings of artbut would appear to a non-artist to be dust.
His black and white Johnny Cupcake
T-shirt, not-quite-black cap, friendly brown beard and tan argyle socks reveal only a hint about the Louisville seniors personality.
Growing up in a single-mom household molded Burnett. He says his mother sacrificed so much to help him get where hes going.
Similar to many students on the Hill, Burnett works a part-time job and funds his education through loans and scholarships.
He didnt take art before college, yet always knew what he wanted to bean artist.
Using gel-roller pens, permanent markers and colored pencils as his media, he created huge, elaborate doodles and drawings. Burnett drew in class, even though he was scolded by his teachers.
One day, a woman came to Burnett with an irresistible offer.
She said, Ill give you 400 bucks if you do me one that I can put over my fireplace. So I did one of those; took me about all summer long, Burnett remembers. It was just phenomenal.
When shortcutting through the ceramics lab one day, Burnett was told he ought to take a ceramics class. He replied, I dont know, Bartel is kind of creepyhave you seen his artwork?
Now, Burnett assists with assistant professor Tom Bartels
beginning ceramics classesand hell be published in 500 Ceramic Sculptures in May 2009.
This past summer, he traveled and had a residency at Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina. Last month, he and gallery director Kristina Arnold
brought internationally acclaimed artist Mark Burns to visit Western.
Burnetts latest works are cakes that explore how identity is influenced by society and gender roles.
The pieces are all colorful, with bold, story-telling pictures. He photographs and uses Photoshop to silkscreen the images onto a piece of clay.
Its definitely different than anything Ive seen here, said Bowling Green senior David Hellman, a ceramics major and Burnetts roomate.
These. Took. A looong. Time. Ahhh,? Burnett sighed, referring to the cakes he began working on the second week of this semester.
I didnt make them one by oneI did every single one of them for days.
Among his sheet cakes, there is a set titled I Like You Better
, depicting a young man in his boxer shorts and a young woman in her lingerie, a look Burnett found more natural than a nude.
When I wasnt looking, they drew their hands in my sketchbook. He put his here, and she put hers over it. And he wrote I like you, and she wrote, I like you better, Burnett said. It just really captured their personalities together.
Burnetts adviser and teacher, Laurin Notheisen, said Burnett wasnt interested in her printmaking class until I helped him understand how to cut and glue and sew his prints into paper cakes.
Now, Burnett is a print minor in addition to working on his Bachelor of Find Arts in ceramics and a Bachelor of Arts in graphic design. Burnett created edible-looking slices of cake that combine his love of ceramics and printmaking. The piece is named The Guys Like Her, She Likes Chocolate Cake.
I feel like they all have this kind of crush on her, and that theyre all kinda getting dolled up for her behind the scenes, Burnett said. Shes just , you know, Its my birthday, Im just ready for the chocolate cake!
Still intrigued by the idea of sugar coating and how far some people will go in order to sweeten up a tough situation, Burnett is working on cupcake-themed ceramics.
To me, a cupcake represents individuality.
Burnett might be among the best, but even the best have weaknesses. Attending Oak Ridge Military Academy near Greensboro, N.C., for five years still sticks with Burnett.
Even though I try to be random, theres still some sense of organization and OCD to it, he laughed. Although it is a strength, its very much a flawthat I cant let loose, he said. And my teacher gets on me about that.
Bartel agrees. Like many, myself included, often there is a fine line between our strengths and weaknesses, he said. Sometimes technique can get in the way. His work is often so controlled and technically accomplished that it leaves no room for other things.
Burnett is known among his friends and teachers for his energy, drive and motivation.
Gallery director Kristina Arnold described him as an Energizer bunny and a sponge which absorbs anything in its path.
Students have a chance to view some of Burnetts work during the student-juried competition in the University Gallery from Oct. 23 to Nov. 17. Burnett believes he can discover himself and others through his art.
I want to tell stories of people that are real, he said. I think that everybodys story is important.