Garth Johnson
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Eggbot Cups by Garth Johnson   Waves (vase)  by Garth Johnson

Factory Decoration (Log Cabin) by Garth Johnson   Like Rabbits by Garth Johnson   Made in China no. 4  by Garth Johnson

Rainbow Warrior no. 1 by Garth Johnson   Waves (L'Oreal)  by Garth Johnson

Manifest Destiny (detail)  by Garth Johnson   Manifest Destiny (detail)  by Garth Johnson      Retropollution by Garth Johnson   

Snake Oil by Garth Johnson         A Wilderness of Warning  by Garth Johnson 

 

My Romance With Handicraft is Finished….
This Time For Good.

My Romance With Handicraft is Finished…. In the spring of 2000, I took a thrift store plate with a tiny, low-relief bird on it and added the above statement in a speech bubble coming out of the bird’s mouth. This plate, created as an afterthought, has become a touchstone that I have returned to time and again throughout my career. Like anyone involved in the crafts, I struggle with process. I push against the boundaries of the materials and processes that I use while simultaneously pushing against the limita­tions of my own hands.
 
I choose to work in porcelain. It might be more accurate to say that porcelain chose me. What other material can evoke purity, luxury and family heirlooms one moment, while evoking mass-produced souvenirs and trinkets the next. I have paid my respects at the site of the imperial kilns in Jingdezhen, China, and I have also marveled at bustling porcelain factories like Buffalo China.
 
Parallel to my own material explorations in porcelain, I explore the culture of porcelain—from the baroque ornamentation and excesses of Capodimonte to the geometric Art Deco stylings of Norita­ke. I am perhaps most drawn, however, to porcelain’s association with commemoration and nostal­gia. My collector plate interventions are part of a long line of art détournements that stretch from ancient graffiti to Guy Debord and the Situationists and current “culture jammers” like the Billboard Liberation Front. Language is an important component of these works. The resonance of language to the imagery of the plate is my chief goal.
 
My porcelain vessels are assembled from slipcast plastic bottles and handles and spouts from silver coffee and teapots. On the surface, these vessels could be taken as a commentary on consumerism and our disposable society. However, I am more interested in the formal qualities of plastic bottles. The flattened form of soap and syrup bottles are sophisticated and beautiful works of design that hold their contents while advertising themselves through labels integrated into their form. The plas­tic bottle can be seen as spiritual heir to the Italian Albarello--.

My recent vessel work is centered on themes of place and production. For the past two years, I have spent the summer in China, working with age-old porcelain production methods in a mod­ern setting. My Chinese work explores themes of slippage in meaning through cultural differences. Chinese porcelain decoration is filled with playful use of language and iconography. My work purposefully mistranslates this system of coded communication into an American vernacular, trading American pop culture for traditional Chinese imagery.
 
Porcelain’s formal qualities have made it a perfect vessel for meaning and commentary since its inven­tion nearly a millennium ago. I continue to struggle with my own technical skills, as well as what it means to be a maker in the 21st Century. My romance with handicraft has only just begun.

Garth Johnson
Winter, 2012