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Jenilyn Johnson, a Rockland native, grew up working with clay. With a potter/sculptor for a father, she started her life’s work as a functional potter. She branched out quickly from thrown pots to other sculptural forms while completing an undergraduate degree in studio art and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Ceramics at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Her interest in figurative sculpture developed in graduate school, when she started using a pinched-slab technique to build her signature terra cotta figures. The grouping of 21 figures called “Crowd Composition,” is an exploration of relationships-not only among the figures in the group, but between the sculptures and their viewer. “All those figures are looking out and responding to the viewer. It’s not passive. The figures look back at you and create a dialogue,” Johnson says.
Johnson’s powerfully evocative figures, sculpted from clay and porcelain, range from one to three feet tall, and unfailingly elicit a strong emotional response in their viewers. “What I try to do with my figures is describe feelings and emotions that are hard to express in words,” Johnson says.
“Jenilyn Johnson’s terra cotta figures are reminiscent of the armies of warriors unearthed within the Great Wall of China-though hers are soldiers of another sort, soldiers of the heart,” says Harbor Square Gallery founder Thomas O’Donovan. “It has been said that we humans are not physical beings having spiritual experiences, but rather spirits inhabiting the world of material, quite literally becoming clay.”
Nearly all of her figures are created to be deliberately gender-neutral. “That allows the viewer to give the figures meaning without being informed by gender-the pieces are purely form and expression.”she says. She frequently works with more than one figure, often creating couples or trios. “People create a story about what they’re seeing,” Johnson says. “Within that story, I like to explore the relationships between the individual figures in the group.”
Jenilyn currently lives and works in Rockland, Maine.