Clay Club brings ceramic artist Peter Johnson to Edinboro

Courtesy of
A piece of Johnson’s work named Black Turbine. He came to campus from Oct. 26-28.
Peter Johnson coming to Boro Oct.26

By Karlee Dies
Contributing Writer/Spectator

Edinboro University’s Clay Club, with the financial help of the Student Government Association, welcomed ceramic artist Peter Johnson to campus on Oct. 26-28.

According to his website, Peter Christian Johnson is an associate professor of art at Eastern Oregon University. He earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from Penn State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science at Wheaton College.

Johnson’s website states that he has been a resident artist and Visiting Lecturer at the Alberta College of Art and Design, Australian National University, The Archie Bray Foundation, the LH Project, and the Odyssey Center for Ceramic Arts as well.

Johnson held a two-day workshop in East Hall as well as a lecture on his works of art in Doucette. He presented a demonstration and offered his critiquing of students’ artwork.

In his lecture, Johnson discussed how he became the artist that he is. Johnson said that he started out trying to find himself and see what it was that he truly wanted to do and portray.

“I want to digest those moments that I find compelling and try to understand what they are so that I can insert them into the things I make,” Johnson said.

Johnson went on to show several examples of how he gets the ideas to form the objects that he creates. For example, he talked about how he looks at something as simple as a bathroom toilet and sees the “false purity” in it and how it “appears clean when it is in fact is the nastiest thing ever,” said Johnson.

Another example was how he looked at an image of galvanized steel inside of a tree. “This is a relationship of a clearly man made invasion of intervention into this organic, growing thing. This image is better and more interesting than what I am making… I wanted to try to digest those moments that I find compelling [like this tree] and try to understand what they are so that I can insert this into what I make,” said Johnson.

Johnson explained how he started to just take pictures of everything, especially abandoned industrial equipment to get an idea of “the past history of an object.”  He went on to talk about how his art represents an aged industrial object as a sculpture. His work looks almost like a metal futuristic piece with a history and yet it is all made out of clay.

On the Eastern Oregon University’s art department website Johnson comments on the material he works with, “Clay, to me, has a historical presence. It seems forever connected to our past and our cultural formation,” Johnson said.

“I find that the material is imbued with a sense of time as if it were saturated with memories themselves. This work is meant to straddle the present, simultaneously looking back to the past and towards the future.  It catalogues the act of making, of constructing, of inventing, and reinventing.”

Johnson’s work has been exhibited in Canada, Australia, and throughout the United States. His work has been featured in several selected group exhibitions this year such as “Ceramic Top 40 selected works” in Massachusetts, “San Angelo National Ceramics Exhibition” in Texas, “Emerged: After the Residency” in Chicago, and “NCECA Archie Bray Exhibition” in Milwaukee.

Johnson’s work was also featured in a selected solo exhibition titled, “Peter Christian Johnson,” at Pendleton Art Center in Pendleton, Oregon. Johnson’s art has been featured in various publications. He was featured in the Ceramics Monthly Exposure in April of this year as well as twice in 2013 and 2011.

In addition to much recognition in publications, Johnson has won several awards and grants over the past decade. Most recently, he won the “Oregon Arts Commission and Ford Foundation Career Opportunity Grant.” According to the Oregon Arts Commission website, this grant helps “support individual Oregon artists by enabling them to take advantage of unique opportunities to enhance their careers through the development of arts, business or professional skills, [as well as] expanding  marketing capacity and/or the further development of the nature or quality of their artwork.”

Currently, Johnson is looking into architecture and its framework such as bridges and various buildings as inspiration saying that “it acts as architecture but really is a sculpture in space.”

“I’m taking these sorts of saturated colors of contemporary design as a sort of signifier of contemporary culture and the present too. I’m making these things out of layered forms and melting a fluid surface onto it making it sort of deconstruct. It feels as though it is ruining it at first but that’s what makes it interesting,” said Johnson on his recent works.

Asking questions and trying to make sense or understand why things are the way they are can offer inspiration as it did for Peter Christian Johnson. His work represents an aged industrial past and present that tries to understand the sculpture and not just look at it. Johnson keeps you thinking and makes you wonder what makes things so compelling.

For more information or to see some of his work, visit   

Karlee Dies is lifestyles editor for The Spectator. She can be reached by