Peter Johnson creates what look like industrial ready-mades—vaguely familiar as if they are giant parts of engines or turbines—and he makes them of the traditional craft material of clay. His latest project, in fact, involves using 2,000 pounds of clay to create facsimiles of the grapples that are used to pick up scrap metal. He'll fabricate as many of the grapple forms as that amount of clay will allow for “A Ton of Grapples.”
This meeting of tradition and industry is everywhere in evidence in Eastern Oregon where Johnson's forms have been inspired by the neglected or abandoned and rusting equipment he saw at former lumber mills or on farms. In a way, he is an archeologist of the future.
“For the last seven years I have been dealing with two things: artifact and invention,” says Johnson. “I'm interested in the historical the archeological, in how materials are connected to time.”
His process, too, marries contemporary technology with traditional technique as he first models his clay forms in computer-aided design programs, creating patterns and jigs to aid in their making.
Johnson, who has exhibited widely, including shows at Australian National University and KIT in Calgary, will be part of the NCECA Emerging Artist Exhibition in April 2012.