Artist: Samuel Jernigan
Exhibition: Weight of Whimsy and Ideals
Media: clay, spray paint
Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Gatov Gallery West
This week I had the wonderful opportunity of speaking with the very talented Samuel Jernigan. Samuel is a recent graduate of the ceramics program right here at CSULB. He was brought up in Central California in a very agricultural setting, and then moved to the Bay Area. He started his artwork in 2000, but has been on and off. He took a seven year break and then began creating again. He became interested in ceramics when he was creating props for a ceramic production company, and fell in love with the art. During his time at CSULB, Samuel became so dedicated and consumed in his art that he ended up living out of his car for three years, simply because he was constantly working so it was easier for him to stay on campus.
Due to his background in ceramics, a majority of Samuel’s work is sculptures, however, in this particular exhibit, he uses toys as his inspiration. He explained how he used “sad toys” that he came across at a flee market, and used them as a basis for his collection. The collection appears very cohesive aesthetically, due to the widespread use of primary colors and the rainbow. Samuel mentioned that he uses top of the line spray paint from Germany to add color to his works, and one can definitely observe the effects. The colors are vibrant and they pop against the natural color of the ceramic material.
At first glance, one might infer that the exhibition was childish due to the fact that it embodies children’s toys. However, Samuel interpretation and motivation behind the works is incredibly deep and complex. He thoughtfully explained that he wanted to create something that has a pretense of a specific identity, but can be interchangeable. Some artists have a tendency to have a very specific meaning in mind when creating and observing their work, but Samuel’s ideas are on the contrary. He strived to unfix the fixed identity of things in order to change them and perceive them as unique and different. By unfixing the fixed perception of things, he is also creating ideas of belonging, alienation, and contradiction.
In a quote from my conversation with Samuel, he said, “contradictions and absurdities are the only things that actually move and motivate people.” This really resonated with me because I strongly agree that this is mostly, if not completely accurate. In my communications class recently, we had to debate on the topic of children’s toys and how they shape our identities. I gathered that toys have a tendency to solely embody a very specific type of person, leaving out the amazing variety of different races, cultures, and appearances that make up our society. I greatly enjoyed Samuel’s work because he focused on undoing the aspects behind toys, and changing them into something that they weren’t before, adding a great amount of depth.
Overall, Samuel Jernigan’s exhibit was incredibly insightful and unique. I am glad to have had the chance to experience it and to have a conversation with him about his craft. Oh, and one more thing. Samuel’s favorite donut is double chocolate with nuts on top.