Born: Philadelphia, PA 1949–Passed On: January 25, 2019
Joe lived and worked in his studio in Olde Kensington and his life was defined by his lifelong journey as an artist. This journey included using many different mediums: drawing, clay, wood, mosaics, and collage. It enabled him to explore personal, spiritual, and social themes that he felt privileged to express through art. His art lives in many diverse locations around the world, such as a church in El Salvador, a Buddhist retreat in Vietnam, churches, synagogues, Al-Aqsa Islamic Society, community centers, and the Septa Church Street El Stop, to highlight a few. He has been honored to be awarded recognition for his work over the past four decades, including: The Miki Young ArtWell Leader Award (2018), the Vocational Service Leadership Award from the Rotary Club of Philadelphia (2010), a Huntington Arts Council grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (2009), a Works on Paper award from Arcadia University, the Adolph Dioda Memorial Award for Sculpture from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (1995), and many others. Joe believed that art beautifies everything we experience, and art had that same effect on his entire life.
Through his teaching with ArtWell, Perkins Center for the Arts, Mural Arts Philadelphia, Rutgers University, Camden County College and The Clay Studio Joe has worked with students of all ages helping them to realize their own inner artist, inspiring them to open their hearts to joy. Joe also used his art to call attention to social injustice. He created a series of sculptures of Central American refugees who were being given safe haven through the Philadelphia Sanctuary Movement in the 1980s. Joe invited refugees to his studio, listened to their stories and created sculptures of these men and women filled with emotion and the poignancy of their struggles and strength. One of those sculptures is currently installed in Haddonfield NJ.
Most recently Joe completed a mosaic portrait of Dwayne Erik Greene a victim of gun violence as part of Souls Shot, a Philadelphia organization that links fine artists with families of victims of gun violence in order to bring attention to and memorialize the lives lost and the families that are permanently altered due to gun violence.
Joe was pure light. An honest, intelligent, gentle, loving, joyous, curious, caring magnificent human being. People always remarked about the warmth of Joe’s smile and that’s because that beautiful smile conveyed the essence of his soul. People were drawn to his kindness, compassion, and great sense of humor, and he lives on in the hearts of so many because he was just a stand up guy. In addition to being a fantastic artist, loving husband, father and friend, Joe was a lifelong Phillies fan and during baseball season you could always find Joe working in his studio with his Phillies hat on and the game playing over the radio.
Joe is survived by his wife Caren Lee Brenman, son Leo Brenman and a loving community of friends.
There is a language in sculpture created by hands, heart and head. I look for the poetry in sculptural forms. My work is done in series, which allows for endless variations. In addition to being a sculptor, I create mosaic murals for public and private spaces. Murals are an extension of my desire to have art become a transformative force outside the realm of galleries and museums.
Jacob’s Story, Camden County Community College, Blackwood, NJ
Inaugural Exhibition, PAFA Alumni Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Windows and Mirrors, American Friends Service Committee
Am I My Brother’s Keeper?, Annenberg Center, Wynnewood, PA
Urban Organic, Projects Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Perkins Art Center, Collingswood, NJ
PAFA Fellowship, Artists House Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Yesterday and Today, Sande Webster Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Transcendence, Mural Arts & The Nathan Cummings Foundation, New York, NY
Light and Space, Cira Center, Philadelphia, PA
Mastery In Clay, The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA
Social Conscious, Cheltenham Arts Center, Cheltenham, PA
The Paper Trail, Ceramic, Mosaic Mural, National Endowment For The Arts Grant, Huntingdon, PA
Huntingdon Past & Present Mural, Mid Atlantic Grant, Huntingdon, PA
Nature’s Garden, Mosaic Mural, Mid-Atlantic Grant, Camden Post Office, Camden, NJ
New Life, Marble Sculpture, Phu Tho Province, Vietnam
Church Stop Reflection, SEPTA Art In Transit, Philadelphia, PA
Selected Public Art Projects
The Seasons, Mosaic, Germantown Jewish Center, Philadelphia, PA
The Gold Birds, Mosaic and Paint Mural, Alexander Wilson School, Philadelphia, PA
Pathways, Mosaic Mural, Brookfield Academy, Cherry Hill, NJ
The Four Seasons, Mosaic Mural, Taunton Forge School, Medford, NJ
Wishing Tree, Collage Mural, St. Anthony Of Padua, Camden, NJ
World Textures, Paint and Mosaic Mural, Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia, PA
Ethiopian Garden, Paint and Mosaic Mural, Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia, PA
Mosaic and Clay Murals, Bar Ferdinand, Philadelphia, PA
MasterPeace, Sculpture Relief and Mosaic Mural, Einstein Hospital, Philadelphia, PA
Doorways To Peace, Multimedia Mural, Al Aqsa Mosque, Philadelphia, PA
Family Gathering, Sculpture, 35th & Wallace, Philadelphia, PA
Behold How Beautiful, Sculpture Relief, Mishkan Shalom, Philadelphia, PA
The Stations of the Cross, Sculpture Relief, Las Anonas Church, El Salvador
Paz Para Vieques, Mosaic Mural, Mural Arts Program, Philadelphia, PA
1972 - 1978
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA