CCC instructor features exhibit at MNA

CCC instructor Joe Cornett stands with his exhibit, "Roundball Religion," at the Museum of Northern Arizona.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The hoop and the backboard: They are symbols of the sport of basketball, and they prevail through time and across culture.

Joe Cornett, part-time digital photography instructor at Coconino Community College, focuses on the hoop and the backboard in his work called “Roundball Religion.” The work is on exhibit at the Museum of Northern Arizona from June 25 through Sept. 30.

“It’s appreciation for the hoop and where the game’s played,” he said, adding that his photographs focus on the aesthetic of the hoops, their makeshift quality and the relationship of the hoops with the space where they are located. Imagining is part of his interest.

“I imagine the people playing,” he added.

The people may have played there years ago, and there’s clearly an element of time’s passage in the art. A deep look into any of the pieces suggests the presence of players, like ghosts, and the whispers of long-passed games linger on the wind.

Cornett is an avid basketball fan, and his father, Joe Sr., has been a part of the project from the beginning. Cornett’s love for the sport came from playing basketball while growing up. On his travels to games and tournaments, he would see backboards and hoops wherever he went.

Alan Petersen, Fine Arts and Colorado Plateau Studies Instructor at CCC, said, “Joe’s photographs speak to the power of sport, basketball in this case, as social ritual and activity and the cultural and physical context in which it’s played. The hoops are monuments to the people who made them, and to the setting where they are found.”

Petersen added, “I think these are very elegant and compelling visual statements.”

Cornett, who also teaches full time at Flagstaff High School, said “Roundball Religion” was shot over a four-year period.

“The tough part for me is you have to travel for this kind of work,” Cornett said.  

He’s traveled throughout the Colorado Plateau for the exhibit at MNA – Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.

“It’s huge,” Cornett said of being selected to show his work at MNA. “It’s an honor. I think it justifies a lot of the hard work.”

The exhibit fits the MNA theme of art and culture on the Colorado Plateau, which are implied in the imagery and the element of time in each piece. To see a video of Cornett's exhibit, click here.



“I have an art background, so I try to teach photography from an art standpoint,” Cornett said.

Cornett holds a Bachelor of Fine Art from Arizona State University and a Master of Fine Art from the San Francisco Art Institute. His work has been exhibited nationally.

Although he steers his photography students to the art of the process, Cornett said his approach overlaps with commercial and journalism applications as well. He works to help students figure out their style. Photography is the art of seeing creatively and letting the camera capture it.

“I tell them they’re going to learn to see creatively, to approach the world in a different manner,” Cornett said.

He added that he offers guidance to help the students make their work strong. And when students ask him about whether they should pursue the strength in the art, he’s emphatic.

“I feel I’d be a horrible teacher if I told them not to,” Cornett said. “I would tell them to go for it, make sure the idea is really strong.”

He would also remind them to remember that being dedicated to the art is a tough thing to do – something where an artist needs to dive in and push to get the work out there, even when the artist has to hold down a day job to pay the bills.

An artist may never make a living out of the art, Cornett said. But it is art, and the art of it is the thing.

Cornett’s plan is to expand on the project with trips to the inner cities of Chicago and New York; the rural areas of Indiana, Kansas and Kentucky; even swamplands and beaches. Wherever there are hoops and backboards, he wants to go there and shoot them.

In the meantime, Cornett will resume his teaching duties at CCC and Flag High in the fall.

For more information about Cornett’s work, visit


Monday, 24th August 2015

All Dates

  • Monday, 24th August 2015