Jeni Hansen Gard is the daughter of a nurse and bed and breakfast owner. Her childhood was spent cleaning, making beds, and playing on the shore of Lake Michigan. She is now considered a professional bed-maker but has always much preferred to spend her days outside doing cartwheels in the sand. Jeni studied art education from 2003-2007 and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art Education with an emphasis in ceramics at Hope College, in Holland, Michigan. She then went on to study ceramics for a year at Grand Valley State University in 2008 before teaching high school art for two years. In 2012, Jeni graduated from the University of Florida with a Master of Arts in Art Education with an emphasis in ceramics. She is currently a candidate in the Master of Fine Arts Ceramics program at Ohio State University, where she is pursuing her research interest in ethnobotany and exploring the ceramic vessel as a form of social art practice. Jeni is married to artist Forrest Sincoff Gard who recently completed his MFA degree at Louisiana State University. He is currently the assistant editor for Ceramics Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated.
Distilled to its most basic form, my work is about our relationship to food. This relationship is formed through our network with food and through our points of access for example the supermarket, farmers markets, or maybe a home garden. I am largely interested in the connection between food and our bodies. I use the ceramic vessel as a basis to explore this connection. My research addresses questions about our food system. Where our food comes from? What we eat? Why we eat what we eat? How cooking and preparing food affect our food choices? What is the role of the table as a place of gathering and shared meals? As a functional potter it was natural that I began to take into consideration the function of the objects I was creating, their relationship to the food they serve and we chose to consume.
I began my work as a vessel maker and now define myself as an experience maker with vessel in hand. I see myself as a facilitator working in the space between people and the food they consume. This shift in making brought the vessel into action outside the traditional comforts of the home. They enter into a new role within the gallery and world. My vessels take form based on the need of each particular project. Sometimes designed for a certain function to hold specific foods I have grown and harvested. Other times they exist as a connected dish set used in a performance to consider the role of shared eating and its effect on the food we choose to consume.
The ceramic vessel mediates between the human body and the food we consume. My work focuses on the moment of human interaction, the touch, and the intimate connection. I am interested in the interrelationship that forms between people through the vessel in the presence of food consumed.
It is through the soil of the earth all growth and life form. The soil is used to cultivate plants whereas clay when dug from the earth allows for the creation of form. I am captivated by the tactility of clay, as I am able to create vessels that demonstrate the way the body moves and how clay responds to the touch of my hands. In my practice, I view similarly the transformation of clay into form and seed into plant. In the end both connect in unison at the table.
My goal as an artist is to strike a balance between a growing practice that brings me to the greenhouse and gardens, an art practice that explores the ceramic vessel, and a social practice that brings the vessel, plant, and people together shaping shared experiences.