Wk 4 – Artist Conversation – Samuel Jernigan
Artist: Samuel Jernigan
Exhibition: Weight of Whimsy and Ideals
Media: Ceramics, Clay, Wood
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West
About the Artist
Samuel Jernigan is a young artist who just recently graduated from CSULBin 2015. Growing up in the Bay area of California, Samuel was surrounded by agriculture as a child and was exposed to creating sculptures at a young age. Having majored in ceramics, Samuel graduated from the BFA program and now spends his time playing guitar and making artwork.
While Jernigan mainly focuses his artwork on structuring clay sculptures, many of them have unique styles to their texture. Some of his pieces have a rough sandy approach while others had a smooth shiny cover. On certain specific ones he has both, the slippery atmosphere of work on a body of the piece, while having a drier look to the face of the character. Most of Jernigan’s artwork is displayed on average size while some were scaled to look moderately taller than others. Additionally Jernigan included some wood in his projects, mainly to allow or to offer the appearance of movement in the body parts on some of his creations.
When discussing with Jernigan, he explained to me the motives behind his artwork. Jernigan proclaimed that he received his main inspiration on a trip to the flea market. On his trip, Jernigan gazed upon a blanket that had many toys for sale that appeared damaged or old. He stated that it made him feel emotionally “sad” and that he felt a sense of abandonment with the toys. In his artwork he sought to allow the viewer to “unfix” the sense of maturity in their eyes and to look past the nostalgia of their childhoods, his toy creations are meant to remind us of a time of simplicity and bliss. Within this bliss he wishes us to recall our ignorance, in hopes that it can spawn a time of unity that we once felt before the discretion and judgment of our present. A time where we can all share love, happiness, and hope for our future.
Synthesis / My Experience
When viewing Jernigan’s work, I felt a range of different emotions. Foremost, I found his fish-like sculptures to bring joy in that it offers a Doctor Seuss appearance in a goofy, yet happy tone. I was slightly disturbed however, when I realized that each toy representation had some form of sorrow. While Jernigan claims that his art is meant to create unity, I feel a sense of isolation within the pieces. Each “toy” sculpture either had a different color eye, a deformation, or a sad, some even titled “Mona Lisa” smile. Not one sculpture was completely happy. I personally think that Jernigan is shaming society for giving up on imagination and the happiness that a childhood life offer’s, by allowing the things that once offered us so much positivity to be forgotten and rot alone. While the objects were all in the same room, each one offered a sense of loneliness and isolation, as if they once had memories of people who loved and cared about them, all to be eventually lost with time. One sculpture specifically, “Bubble Gum Ballerina” was especially unnerving. This sculpture has a body that appears wet with a grimace on a dry face, his arms and legs hang loosely from his body and then under the table, and it appears to be staring off into the distance straight past the viewer. I feel as though this sculpture represents lost dreams. By being named after a “Ballerina” yet not even having the legs be attached to its body, Jernigan displays a sense of hopelessness and despair. While his intention may have been to offer a sense of unity and pleased, I feel as though his art is a reminder, or the realization of the least, of the pasts we left behind.