Niki Johnson is a multi-media artist who has incorporated ceramics into her practice in multiple ways. In her commemorative plate series, she sandblasts away the image that the plate was meant to memorialize, leaving the background image of the found plate intact. The results can range from poignant to disturbing. The silhouettes of what was removed have a ghostly quality that is very much in keeping with the entire gesture. Johnson finds the plates in thrift stores; they are devalued objects of questionable provenance that may have been created to mark an occasion that has been entirely forgotten. Nest Egg is currently on view in Aesthetic Afterlife, an exhibition curated by the Chipstone Foundation at the Haggerty Museum of Art, Milwaukee (January 22 – May 18, 2014). What follows is Johnson’s statement concerning the installation. Look for her limited edition plates that will be on offer in CFile’s Shop.
I see this piece as an embodiment of the human desire to nest and place our experiences within the context of a natural world. As humans, we instill our legacies by passing on material items, traditions and stories. Ownership of objects, like lives, pass on. Heirloom objects such as plates connect communities of people together through ritual, tradition and touch.
The imagery in the second ring of plates features silhouettes of birds nesting, mating, grouping and migrating. I chose to alter those plates as a way to tease out the romantic overlay of life cycle behaviors that wild life commemoratives such as these encourage within a domestic setting.
The plates that comprise this piece were found in local thrift shops, a place that a majority of commemorative objects go to when the resonance of their message wanes, or they loose their original owners. This piece unites several incomplete sets of both practical and ornamental plates into one piece, making whole that which was once orphaned.
Niki Johnson (b. 1977, Green Bay, WI) is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and organizer. She received her BFA from the University of Memphis, Tennessee in 2008 and her MA/MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2012. She currently is an Adjunct Professor at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. She teaches courses in foundry, mold-making, casting and conceptual art. At You Service, an exhibition that Johnson is co-curating with Amelia Toelke that explores the plate as a site of cultural exploration, opens at the Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, Washington on February 14th. Her recent solo exhibitions include Eggs Benedict at The Portrait Society Gallery, Milwaukee; Behind Closed Doors: An Evening of Rockwellian Taboo at The Wrong Again Gallery, Memphis; MAID Sculpture Presents: Niki Johnson at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Milwaukee; and Mover at the Seventh Floor Gallery, Madison, Wisconsin.