John Westenskow Is a native of Carbon County and graduated from CEU with an Associate in Art and later from USU with a Bachelor of fine Art and Education, both with an emphasis in ceramics. Recently John was chosen as the Utah Art Educator Association’s 2017-2018 recipient of the Middle/Junior High School Educator of the Year Award. He has been teaching art and ceramics in the Logan City School District for the last 34+ years. Over this time, in various special programs, he has also taught subjects as varied as physics, reading, literacy, hiking, cross country skiing, and magic.
Over two decades of summers breaks were spent as an itinerant airbrush artist, setting up shop across Utah and the Oregon coast. Pottery, however, was ever-present. The last few years it has returned comfortably and securely to the forefront. John has work currently in the Artist’s Gallery in the Cache Valley Center for the Arts in Logan, Utah as well as Gallery East In Price.
Earth, water, fire and magic. What happens when these elements come together has intrigued and inspired the work in this exhibit. Growing up in southeastern Utah I saw it manifest in the raw geology of the area. Monumental boulders like Henry Moore sculptures clustered in the foothills. To the south, arroyos and natural cairns and spires stretch out across the arid landscape and the entire region is festooned with exposed layers of stone laid down over millennia, compressed, buried , solidified and pushed back to the surface to reveal, if we are able to read them, their stories. The enduring magic of time and process are what I capture in my work.
In my most recent pieces, I have to a great extent forgone the use of glazes that might mute or hide the natural appearance of the clay and the evidence of the process that created them. I use multiple layers of slip clay laid down on a contrasting clay body cylinder. Each layer applied in a dance and dialogue between the wet clay turning on the wheel, the liquid clay on the brush and how I bring the two together. After a bit of pondering and reflecting, I reach inside and introduce an internal force expanding outward in a different kind of dialog which changes the very shape of the form itself, causing its skin to burst and tear emphasizing its new form, leaving a record of the stress and energy expanding from within. The clay is pushed to its limits, but respectfully not beyond
I see my current work and this area’s geology as metaphor for our life experiences and the evidence time and those experience leaves on each of us. Both the landscape and my work brought into being by the elemental alchemy of earth, water, fire and the elusive magic that brings them together and changes us from within and leaves its mark without.