As a queer person of mixed race, Corey Pemberton often feels other. Knowing nothing about his African roots and very little about his European heritage, the artist considers lineage and the idea of connectedness in his glass art, paintings, and other works on paper. Pemberton’s vessels, blown glass baskets based on those of his presumed ancestors, are made in a European style that borrows forms and patterns from the sweetgrass weavers of South Africa. He says: “I use color and pattern as vehicles to describe situations where society has used a person’s uniqueness against them; where people have been labeled or categorized based on physical characteristics in an effort to hold them back. Can we, as a society, find a way to unite in our otherness?”
Born in Reston, Virginia, in 1990, Pemberton received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012. After graduating and relocating to Augusta, Missouri, he worked as a production glassblower under Sam Stang and Kaeko Maehata. Subsequent travel through Norway and Denmark exposed the young artist to both country’s rich design history as he worked with fellow glass artists. Upon return to the US, Pemberton participated in a Core Fellowship at Penland School of Craft, Bakersville, North Carolina.
Currently residing in Los Angeles, Pemberton splits time between production glassblowing, his painting practice, and Crafting the Future (CTF), an organization he co-founded with furniture artist Annie Evelyn in early 2019. CTF partners with organizations across the country such as Louisiana’s Young Aspirations/Young Artists, known as YAYA; Kentucky’s STEAM Exchange; North Carolina’s Penland School of Craft; and Maine’s Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, with the goal of increasing access to education and opportunity for underrepresented artists in order to help them develop thriving careers. In 2019, CTF raised more than $8,000 to send two young New Orleans students, Tyrik Conaler and Shanti Broom, to Penland School of Craft.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, a growing number of artists have banded together to fundraise for student scholarships. The CTF membership page went live in February 2020, and in the next three months culled around 50 members and $2,000. Following the killing of George Floyd and several other innocent African Americans, and the ensuing protests that raised awareness of racial injustice, membership increased to more than 1,200 by late May. Over the next few months, CTF raised over $175,000 for scholarships and other programming, though more is needed to affect lasting change.
If you’re interested in joining or donating to Crafting the Future, visit:
Striving to bring together people of all backgrounds and identities, Pemberton breaks down stereotypes and builds bridges, not only through his work with CTF, but in his personal artistic practice. In the artist’s recent solo show creature, comfort at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) of Raleigh, North Carolina, painting, photography, and hand-blown glass came together to create visual environments that depicted subjects in both real and imagined homes. Pemberton’s goal was and is to make his subjects relatable and intriguing, so that viewers consider those subjects fully and are able to see themselves in the work.
Join Corey Pemberton next spring at the Chrysler Museum of Art’s Perry Glass Studio for a lecture and free demonstrations during the 2021 Visiting Artist Series. Next summer, the artist is scheduled to teach at Pilchuck and in the fall at Penland with Cedric Mitchell.