Janet Macpherson, "Revenge"(detail), 2013
Janet Macpherson, "Revenge"(detail), 2013, slip cast porcelain, 4” x 2.5” x 5”
Janet Macpherson left functional ceramics behind after starting her MFA at Ohio State University in 2008, choosing instead to replicate toy animals, religious statues and other knick-knacks in clay using plaster molds. Sometimes she dissects and reassembles, pairing, say, a deer head with a saint’s body. Her choices can be whimsical, but also evoke darker narratives. Revenge, for instance, features a white ceramic bear with a neck ruffle. It grips a human hand in its jaw.
For Macpherson, animals stand in for human experiences. She uses them to explore her relationship with her body, including ideas about repression and the monstrous. “Humans have a complicated relationship with their physical bodies,” she says. “My work explores this idea, specifically the denial of this physicality that was prevalent in my Catholic upbringing, while simultaneously asserting the body’s messy and powerful presence.”
Macpherson, now based in Toronto, sometimes wraps, binds and bandages animals in porcelain sheets – a move inspired by a visit to the Ohio State Agricultural Fair in Columbus, where she became fascinated with the way animals were clad in protective garments to keep them pristine for judges. It’s a move that provides a visceral edge to her work, evoking the wounds of human existence through the animal self.
Her work is drawing attention. She has received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, and has won the Winnifred Shantz Award for Ceramics, which recognizes emerging artists, from the Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo, Ont. Next year, she has a solo show at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto.
Janet Macpherson is represented by the Slate Gallery in Regina. Her work sells for $325 to $3,000.