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John Donovan discusses his collection, “Warriors, Monsters and Heroes”

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

If you’ve ever wondered what Hello Kitty would look like as a Mesopotamian warrior, artist John Donovan is your guy.

Donovan has been a clay artist since he was five years old. His collection “Warriors, Monsters and Heroes” is currently on display in Gallery 121 in the Leu Center for the Visual Arts.

At an artist reception Thursday evening, Donovan described the collection as “an exploration of the contradictions of childhood.”

“Thank you for giving this work a home,” said Donovan at the beginning of the talk. “It does art no good to sit in crates collecting dust.”

Some of the pieces from the 10-year-old collection feature characters that seem to have been pulled off the cover of a video game, holding objects that contradict the childlike emotions the characters might typically evoke.

One of the pieces, “Sword and Shield Bears,” features two teddy bears standing back to back and brandishing medieval arms.

Though Donovan’s work is unique, the Belmont professor understands the importance of mentorship in the arts — and in his speech, he said he was concerned for its future.

“I think Youtube is killing mentorships,” said Donovan in regard to learning from his own mentors.

However, he warned against mentors that don’t provide critical feedback.

“If all they do is congratulate you they might not be a mentor they might just be an aunt,” said Donovan.

He recognized that some artists prefer to work alone or in a group, but he said the most crucial aspect is remaining positive in your work.

“Make sure you surround yourself with people who push you towards the good stuff,” Donovan said.

He finished the talk by letting a few of the audience members pick up a few of his pieces and shake them or change out the tools the pieces were wielding. One of the large clay pieces even functioned as a child’s rattle.

“Warriors, Monsters and Heroes” will be on display through February 21, 2020 in the Leu Center for the Visual Arts.

Photos by Tina James.

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