While most people look at cigarette butts on the ground as disgusting, Jacob Peters '15 found the beauty in them, so much so that he collected nearly 2,000 of them for his latest sculpture.
Having a love for working with found materials, Peters walked around the Emmanuel College campus, picked up cigarettes, brought them into the ceramics studio and dipped them in liquid clay.
"It's a little bit different," said Peters of the process. "I'm teaching myself how to do this and figuring out the best way."
Peters will showcase this sculpture, "Self Portrait I," in the "Ceramics en-MASSe" exhibit at Bunker Hill Community College through Nov. 21st. An artists' reception will be held Thursday, Oct.2nd from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. More than 200 artists - ranging from students to seasoned artists - will be featured in the exhibit. This will be Peters's first show.
"It's a small show, but for my first show, I'm pretty happy," he said.
"Self Portrait I" is clay-dipped cigarettes arranged in a loop design placed over a frame, which is made out of a shipping pallet. The piece is a self-portrait because it represents an aspect of Peters's life. At 14, Peters was diagnosed with vitiligo, a condition in which white patches develop on the skin caused by a loss of pigment. The spots never bothered Peters much, but he noticed people were staring at his skin instead of his face while talking to him.
"The human body is a beautiful thing, so am I ugly or am I beautiful," said Peters of the spots on his skin. "I took these cigarettes, which are disgusting, hideous things and made them into this pleasing form."
For Peters, the piece is showing a dichotomy between beauty and ugliness.
"I am still beautiful even though I have spots," he said.
The exhibit was brought to Peters's attention by Megumi Naitoh, associate professor of art. Peters was hesitant to enter at first, but at the last minute, he decided to submit his work. Peters said he isn't the type who likes his name and face out in the public; he prefers that his art do the talking.
Peters entered Emmanuel as an art therapy major but quickly switched to studio art. He didn't take any art classes in high school, but immediately fell in love with ceramics. His experience in the Art department has been positive as it has given him an environment to experiment. He said the studios and professors are accessible.
"I can't say enough good things about it," said Peters of the program. "This time last year, I realized I could be a ceramist or sculptor."
Many times, students from other schools have told Peters how amazing the program and studio spaces are at Emmanuel.
"My favorite part of the department is that every student's voice is heard. If you have an opinion, they truly value it. Everyone is just willing to hear your ideas. Rather than just getting a good grade, they want to see you succeed," Peters said. "It's a very fluid learning environment. It's always changing - that's how art should be."
By getting accepted into this show, Peters gained the courage to apply for another show. He also gained confidence to enter into this exhibit when a non-art major, who was taking a class in the studio, said to Peters, "That's art. This is what it's all about."
"It was nice to see someone who isn't an art major completely understand it. It made me realize that perhaps my art isn't bad," Peters said.
After graduation in May, Peters sees himself going into a few different directions like pursuing a higher degree so he can teach, or participating in a year of service. This past year, Peters participated in Alternative Spring Break (ASB) and was just accepted as a student leader.
"I know I want to do art at some point whether I'm teaching or curating," Peters said. "I know I want to be creating all the time."
The "Ceramices en-MASSe" exhibit is located at the Mary L. Fifield Art Gallery at Bunker Hill Community College, A300 Area, 250 New Rutherford Ave., Boston. Gallery hours are Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday, 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; and Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The gallery is free and open to the public.
For more information on the exhibit, visit the Bunker Hill Community College website.