Niki Johnson, Vermont Lutheran Church, Black Earth, Wisconsin, 2013
10 1/4 inch diameter altered plate. This is a unique work.
Vermont Lutheran Church, Black Earth, Wisconsin is an altered commemorative plate in which the central element, the church, has been abraded away to reveal the unglazed clay beneath. As part of a larger body of work that Niki Johnson has been building for the past few years, this plate investigates the commemorative plate as a site for cultural exploration. Through subtle surface alterations these pieces explore the complex and often contradictory narratives of normative American culture memorialized by the commemorative object.
Niki Johnson grew up in a politically engaged environment with a family committed to creating social change. As a kid she moved often. Her re-locations instilled a profound appreciation for popular culture in her; as both a way to connect with new communities she met, and as a constant buzz in her home.
Through the years, narratives of relocation and popular culture have become central components within her artwork, writings, and curatorial endeavors. She uses materiality as an indexical component in her work, engaging issues of gender, identity, and systems of power through recognizable materials used in everyday life. This practice both demystifies and complicates established understandings of the materials she uses, while broadening public discourse about current cultural trends. Johnson earned her MFA from the University of Wisconson-Madison in 2012. She has exhibited her work and curated shows nationally.
In the artist's words: "I see removing the churches from these plates as an additive gesture, in that their removal instigates generative dialogue about changing religious practices. Without the central architectural structure on the plate, the image is seen anew; God becomes visible in the depiction of cumulus clouds, as does the hand of man in depicting idealized nature. The matte silhouette traces the countless open lots across rural America where a majority of churches have simply disappeared."
These plates are not safe for use with food.