Active since 1995
Samuel 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 the International Ceramic Center in Skaelskor 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 currently serves on the Board of Directors for Artaxis.org, and international artist organization, and is an Associate Professor of Art at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Central Minnesota.
by Neil Miller, Collector, Syracuse, NY
On first viewing, Sam Johnson’s pottery seems familiar. The importance of wood-firing, and the distinctive deposits of fly ash (goma) and surface effects (yohen), connect his work to a tradition that stretches back to Bizen, the pottery-producing region in Japan most closely associated with these techniques, and beyond, to the Momoyama and Tokugawa Periods, when tea masters and warlords first became enraptured with “wabi,” and the rustic, unpretentious esthetic of the tea ceremony.
And yet, as his Jomon cup suggests, Johnson is after something deeper, darker, and more primal than a superficial naturalism of craggy peaks and fog-drenched vales. History, he suggests – of ceramics and civilization – goes back, way back, to the prehistoric era of Japanese hunter-gatherers, and down, way down, into the furthest reaches of the human psyche. It is amidst ritual offerings to ancient gods, fire and animal sacrifice, not the refined sensibilities of the teahouse, that these pots belong,
This is artifice, to be sure, in the sense of creative license rather than of conceit, but it is a sign of Johnson’s mastery of technique and the uncanny affect of his vision that we willingly, imaginatively, follow him into these dark places, what he calls “those aspects of our nature that [are] just on the other side of consciousness.” These are powerful, rather than beautiful, pots. Not silent, but wary, brooding, and watchful.
The pottery in this exhibition is dark and rustic in appearance, evidence of both the process of shaping wet clay and its transformation through fire. Raw unglazed vessels were placed within the kiln and over the course of several days each were marked by wood and heat, melting ash, and charcoal resulting in a somber patina of natural hues and irregular textures. The work is intended to be mysterious and enigmatic in ways that feel familiar. The best of this work strikes a balance between the wild and mysterious character of ourselves and that part of our psyche that sets us apart from it, containing contradictory elements that provoke a sense of mystery and gravitas (soberness, weight, and grief) and suggest those aspects of our nature that is just on the other side of consciousness.
Master of Fine Arts Degree Ceramics, University of Iowa – Iowa City, 2005
Master of Arts Degree Ceramics, University of Iowa – Iowa City, 2004
Bachelor of Arts (Distinction), University of Minnesota – Morris, 1996
Studio of Koie Ryoji, Studio guest of internationally renowned ceramic artist, Tokoname, Japan, 2001
Studio of Jeff Shapiro, Apprenticed to Ceramic Artist, Accord, NY. 2001
Denmark’s Design School, Guest Student Ceramics, Industrial Design Program. Denmark’s Design School, Copenhagen, DK. 2000
Saint John’s Pottery Studio, Apprenticed to Richard Bresnahan, Collegeville, MN. 1996-1999.
2010- Present, Associate Professor of Art, College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University, St. Joseph, MN
Courses Taught: Ceramics I, Ceramics II – III, Design: 3D /Drawing, Senior Studio Thesis
2005 – 2010, Assistant Professor of Art, College of Saint Benedict & Saint John’s University, St. Joseph, MN Courses Taught: Ceramics I, Ceramics II-III, Art 101: “Art, Aesthetics, and Culture”, Design: 3D/Drawing, Senior Studio Thesis
2005, Adjunct Faculty of Art, “Beginning & Advanced Ceramics”, Mount Mercy College, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
2005-2002, Teaching Assistant (Instructor of Record), “Introduction to Throwing” & “Introduction to Hand Building” University of Iowa, Iowa City
2004, Instructor, “Intermediate & Advanced Wheel Throwing”, “Altering Wheel Thrown Ceramics”, “and “Pottery Design and Decoration”, Robert A. Lee Community Recreation Center, Iowa City, Iowa
A complete copy of Sam’s CV is available upon request.
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