Sculpture Forest welcomes new ceramic sculpture artist
— Created August 18, 2021 by Kathy Reed
By Kathy Reed
Anyone visiting the Price Sculpture Forest in Coupeville last week had the novel opportunity to see an artist at work.
Ceramic sculpture artist Jenni Ward, from California, was on Whidbey Island to install her latest piece, “Lichen Series: Spore Patterns.”
“This piece is inspired by the gill structures on the underside of mushrooms.” Ward told Whidbey Weekly (via Price Sculpture Forest founder, Scott Price). “When the spores of the mushrooms drop, they fall in a pattern that is almost a like a ghost image of the gills. I wanted to mimic that pattern in an abstract way with the composition of this installation.
“I’m also interested in thinking about the fungal network of mushrooms or the mycelium which are some of the largest living organisms on earth and a network of communication throughout the landscape,” Ward continued. “This network makes them a symbol of growth through connection and how we are all connected to each other and to the systems and structures of nature.”
Ward said she has had this piece in mind for a long time and felt her idea had finally found an appropriate home at the sculpture forest.
“My goal is to always have my installations connect to the place where they are installed,” she said. “I want it to seem like they could have grown there all on their own. The Pacific Northwest is known for its damp, dense forests where mushrooms thrive, so this seemed like a very appropriate place for the piece. I also think that the contrast of the white glazed ceramic pieces against the lush green moss and ferns will be a beautiful contrast.”
And, as may be the case with real estate, the placement of this latest sculpture is all about location, location, location.
“I chose the specific site in the sculpture forest since it is surrounded by a backdrop of a moss-covered log, dense green foliage and even has a standing dead tree beside it which displays the same type of fungal conk (shelf fungus) that the shapes of the sculpture components are based upon,” said Scott Price. “‘Spore Patterns’ is nestled in a private, earthy location where one can readily imagine a mushroom growing.”
Price had a big hand in preparing the site for the sculpture’s installation – quite literally laying the groundwork, one might say.
“I helped Jenni by completing the advance site preparation and clearing, brought in materials and concrete, did the concrete mixing and pouring, all scheduled around Jenni’s various phases in her overarching creative construction process” he described.
Ward, meanwhile was hard at work developing each component of the piece – all 300 of them.
“There are over 300 hand built ceramic pieces, each floating off the ground on a steel rod,” said Ward. “All of the pieces were made, fired and glazed in my studio. The rods were prepped to support the art and everything has been assembled on site. The individual pieces are based on the forms of a type of shelf fungus which attaches to the sides of a tree like a shelf. They have a leathery white surface on the spore side and a burnished woody side on the other. I wanted the glazes I used on the surface to echo these same textures and colors.”
Price said visitors to the sculpture forest have found the installation process and the new piece very interesting. It joins dozens of other unique sculptures which have found a place along the forest’s paths, offering many opportunities to “wander in wonder,” as the arch leading into the forest invites visitors to do.
“I love its (Spore Patterns’) underlying message and its site appropriateness within the sculpture forest,” Price said. “I especially love how Jenni has taken ceramics to a higher and unique level with this sculpture. Ceramics are traditionally thought of on a small scale and for indoor use. She has pushed beyond the usual boundaries and taken her art form to work terrifically on a large scale in an outdoor forest environment.”
“The thing I love about creating site-specific installations is that you never really know what it will look like until it’s done; there’s a little bit of fear and excitement in that process,” said Ward. “I have had this installation in my mind for awhile and I’m really excited to have finally found a home for it.”
Go to sculptureforest.org for information about Price Sculpture Forest, which is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. (or sunset, whichever comes first). The sculpture forest is located at 678 Parker Road, Coupeville. To learn more about ceramic sculpture artist Jenni Ward, visit jenniward.com.