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Jennifer Ryder-Jones first attended art school in the south of England at the age of 14. At this young age, she realized that art would become the centre of her life. Canada has been her home since the 1960s, where she makes art in her own unique way and shares her knowledge through teaching and exhibiting. She lives in the village of Blakeney, near the Mississippi River west of Ottawa.
From functional pottery to figurative sculpture and found-object constructions, there is a strong emphasis on natural materials in Jennifer’s work. She is fascinated with things that are worn and aged – that tell their own stories of usage, life, decay and exposure to the elements.
Nature not only informs Jennifer’s work, it becomes her work. She combines such things as fired clay and hand-made paper with twigs and bark, dried seed heads, rusty metal, bleached wood, feathers, bones, random found objects and machine parts. Every individual element has its own interesting qualities and, when arranged together, the layers of time and tales can be enjoyed like the pages of a favourite book.
Jennifer’s pieces are carefully constructed in-studio, a process of planned elements and intuitive expression. Somehow, they give the magical impression of having grown directly from the forest’s floor. They celebrate the cycles of nature (the seasons, life and death) lending them a pagan or shamanistic quality.
Her 2011 outdoor installation entitled Scrag-ends/Scarecrows (at Fieldwork Art/Land Exploration near Maberly, Ontario) was one such project. In a field of grasses and wildflowers, she assembled a series of life-sized twig figures following each other in a gentle arching line. Each had their own characteristic adornments such as walking sticks and chest pieces, suggesting a tribal culture with its own history and way of life. Collectively, they gave the very real impression of being on a ritual trek into eternity.
Recent years have seen many of Jennifer’s constructions take on the shape of dwellings or shelters. The treehouses in this series have ladders and windows into which one may catch a glimpse of little beings going about their daily business.
Indeed, her work is intended to continue its magical journey by taking on a life of its own through new eyes and the creation of new stories… a reminder of why myths and oral traditions have such an enduring resonance throughout human cultures.