WILLMAR, MN — Half Light was a solo exhibition of wood fired pottery by Samuel Johnson at Ridgewater College (Feb. 17 – March 18). Johnson’s pots look as though they’ve lived storied lives, like they’ve been around the block a few times. They’re very rugged, marbled with a texture that only age (or an intense kiln experience of heat and ash) can give.
In his communications with us, Johnson said the show’s title is a reference to the writings of Robert Bly, A Little Book on the Human Shadow in particular. We’ll let Johnson explain how he wrapped Bly’s ideas into his work:
Bly explores the notion of shadow as poetic metaphor for aspects of ourselves which remain beyond awareness. He may point to psychological baggage when discussing the shadow but a neuroscientist may identify biology; the crackle of connections and missed connections in our brain. This notion that we are aware and yet unaware of our own motivations and impulses became a central theme in my work. Despite self-awareness and quests for mathematical certainty, there remains mystery. Uncertainty. And to extend Bly’s metaphor, to live a dimensional life, to live with illumination, we must also cast shadow. Half Light is meant to refer to that moment between illumination and the unknown. It is that dim place without clarity.
Johnson was born on the Eastern prairie of the Red River Valley in 1973. After studying painting and ceramics at the University of Minnesota at Morris, he served a three and half year apprenticeship in pottery under Richard Bresnahan. In 2000, he was invited as a guest of Denmark’s Design School to study Scandinavian Ceramic design in Copenhagen; while also working at Guldagergaard International Ceramic Research Center, and as an assistant in private porcelain studios. After working for a short period in a studio in New York, he traveled to Japan as a studio guest of Koie Ryoji. In 2005, Johnson earned graduate degrees in fine art from the University of Iowa. He is currently an Associate Professor of Art at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Central Minnesota and serves on the Board of Directors of Artaxis.org.
Do you love or loathe this exhibition of contemporary ceramic art? Let us know in the comments.