Alumnus Jason Walker an invited artist at prominent Korean ceramic festival

Tammy Hosterman
May 23, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State alumnus Jason Walker is an invited artist in "Story Telling: About Life" at the ninth Gyeonggi International Ceramic Biennale (GICB) 2017 in Korea, presented by the Korea Ceramic Foundation. The exhibition began April 22 and runs through May 28 at the Icheon World Ceramics Center in Icheon Cerapia, Gyeonggi province.

“It is a great honor to be a part of this exhibition,” said Walker, who earned his master of fine arts degree in 1999. “I was invited to the event in 2003 to demonstrate and lecture. When I visited at that time I did not realize how celebrated ceramics is in South Korea. I have dedicated my life to making my ceramic work, and I feel very fortunate to have this kind of recognition.”

With ceramicists from more than 70 countries around the world gathering in Korea and world-renowned ceramic ware presented, the Biennale, established in 2001, is a true international ceramic arts festival. The Biennale has garnered attention and received positive reviews from various fields, while succeeding in establishing ceramics as a major realm of contemporary art.

Painting on sculptural ceramic forms, Walker’s work — known nationally and internationally — is an exploration of the ever-increasing gap between man-made technology and nature. “Light bulbs, plugs, power lines and pipes that grow from the earth are common images found in my work, juxtaposed with birds, insects and organic matters such as leaves and trees,” said Walker. “My ideas stem from my own experiences bicycle touring, backpacking and the daily hikes I take with my dog.”

Walker once rode his bike from Vancouver, Canada, down the coast into Oregon, and from there headed to southeast Idaho, where he grew up. Over the course of the monthlong journey, Walker rode 60 miles a day — an all-day effort — as opposed to the typical hour it would take in a motorized vehicle. 

“Just as the bicycle changed my relationship to time and space, human beings will perceive the world differently according to the tool they are using, and behind every technological creation lies unintended consequences and underlying messages that forever change our perceptions, social interactions, and our relationships to each other and nature,” he said.

From an early age, Walker knew he wanted to be an artist. His talent in drawing and painting landed him a job painting billboards throughout high school and his first two years of college, helping to fund his college education. Wanting a successful career in art, Walker spent his first two college semesters studying illustration — because commercial art was safe — but he quickly became “disenchanted with becoming a hired hand.”

Walker had studied ceramics in high school, which enticed him to change his course of undergraduate study to a bachelor of fine arts in ceramics and drawing. But, when he realized he could merge his talents in ceramics, drawing and painting, he decided to solely pursue his undergraduate degree in ceramics.

Walker chose Penn State for his graduate studies because he liked the intimate size of the program — there were six in his class — and because he admired the work of School of Visual Arts Distinguished Professor Chris Staley and Professor Liz Quackenbush.

“In the art world Jason Walker is our equivalent of Henry Thoreau,” said Staley. “He is a kind and gentle soul who through his artwork is trying to increase our awareness of the fleeting beauty found in nature.”

Walker looks back on his time at Penn State fondly, crediting many students and faculty along the way who influenced his education.

“I would not be the artist that I am today if I had not studied at Penn State,” he said.

He recalls a defining moment: As he prepared for his master of fine arts oral defense, there was one question, “Define nature,” asked by Associate Professor Paul Chidester, which would become the baseline concept that drives his work, even today.  

“My question to Jason [to define nature] had to do with how certain ideas, over time, can become naturalized,” said Chidester. “Often these ideas can be rather arbitrary, but they take on a kind of inevitability that can be a disguise. The idea of nature itself is a good example. It’s not a simple question,” he said.

When asked what advice he would give to young artists, Walker said, “If you really love it, don’t give up.”

To learn more about Walker's work, visit


Last Updated May 23, 2017