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Niki Johnson, Pilgrim Rest, 2013, Limited Edition Plate


8 inch porcelain plate. Produced in an edition of 25.

This 8 inch plate is part of a larger body of work in which Niki Johnson 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. in Pilgrim Rest, Johnson has removed the central element of the image, The Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, leaving the unglazed white clay in its stead.

Johnson "sees 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."


Niki Johnson grew up in a politically engaged environment with a family committed to creating social change. As a child she moved often and these 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 these materials, 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.

These plates are not safe for use with food.

Photos courtesy of Jim Escalante.

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