Gibberish: Sapient Fool’s Gold
jeannie lynn hulen


Gibberish: Fauna, Porcelain, Animal Pelts, Thread and Fabric, 24" x 18" x 10", 2015

Circumventing overburdened themes such as environmentalism, in favor of a non-linear, fantastical position, I hope to call attention to less evident aspects of the relationships between people and the natural world, including intellectual, psychological, and numinous facets of this symbiosis. 

For most of my artistic career my work has been based on the conceptual ramifications of material. Although I have utilized numerous materials, my concepts stem from my traditional ceramic training. I have consistently drawn upon Ceramic’s post-industrial and consumer meaning, and have referenced the object’s material value and historical significance pertaining to terracotta and porcelain. Humor, sarcasm, and outright distain for popular and contemporary culture have also been expressed through use of materials. 

For many years my studio work relied on my conviction that art can and must be explained and articulated through words, both written and spoken, and that definitions and explanations could be clearly stated for everything meaningful. After becoming a parent, I realized that some things can only be understood visually, or experienced physically. Wanting to tap into this transformational personal realization, I have begun a transitional series of installations titled “The Gibberish Series,” in which I am trying to exemplify this idea of material voice, particularly clay. Though a toddler’s speech may be described as “gibberish” when initially learning to utilize spoken language, oftentimes the expression is both authentic and effective, if unconventional. At times, the hazy process of uncovering and deciphering information can be more enlightening of the human condition than clearly articulated data.

 As a result of this transformation in thinking, I have begun investigating real and imagined qualities of materials, particularly clay, allowing material to speak for itself as opposed to employing materials to serve as clues for narrative. In a manner quite distinct from my previous approach to studio work, this has lead me to investigate a body of work that, though grounded in a very materialized reality, has become a rather non-linear experiment in the fantastic. I am using clay in a way that epitomizes its’ geological traits and origins, while simultaneously inverting physical laws and visual expectations of our world. Riverbeds soar in the clouds while the tree of life showers fool’s-gold geological formations, bloodlines permeate all, sewn into rain and piecing together the animal coats of many colors. Salt binds the surface of the faux, faux rocks and inverts the form to contain an essence of life. While it was my past inclination to pre-plan and analyze every facet of my work, I have begun to suspect that some expressions can only be approached cautiously, in a circuitous manner. It is this chimerical quality that I am trying to harness and express in my current work.


Jeannie Hulen is Chair of the Department of Art and Associate Professor of Ceramics at the University of Arkansas. In 1995 she received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, and in 2000 a MFA from Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge. She has held solo exhibitions in Taiwan, Houston, TX, Grand Rapids, MI, Utica, NY, Kansas City, MO, and Fayetteville, AR. She has participated in many national group exhibitions including shows in conjunction with the National Council for the Education of Ceramic Arts from 2007-2013. In Fall 2009 she was a Resident Visiting Artist at the Graduate Institute of Applied Arts, Tainan National University of The Arts in Tainan, Taiwan. In Taiwan she produced a body of work called “Made in Taiwan.” The work examined the current relationship between the United States and Taiwan, through the use of slip-cast toys and hand-made ceramic figures, historically referential of Japanese haniwa soldiers, Chinese terracotta warriors and plastic toy soldiers from the United States.

GRIN is pleased to present this exhibition during the 2015 NCECA conference.

The National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts (NCECA) is a dynamic, 501(c)3 organization that engages and sustains a community for ceramic art, teaching and learning. In addition to deepening knowledge within the field, NCECA expands it by working to cultivate the next generation of ceramic artists and enthusiasts through programing that affects professional artists, K-12 schools, community centers, universities, museums, galleries, businesses, organizations, collectors and enthusiasts of ceramic art. Currently comprised of approximately 4,000 members from the United States and more than 20 foreign countries, NCECA reaches thousands of additional individuals each year through its programs, publications, events, exhibitions and resources.


For more information about the exhibition or any individual artist, please contact GRIN at contact (at) grinprovidence (dot) com.