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2011: 50 Works for 50 Years

Jeannie French

untitled (fish and antlers)

Jeannie French (1952-2018) was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, studied at the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater and Madison and taught at Black Hills State University from 1984-90.  She taught ceramics, drawing, and 3D design for 28 years in the School of Design at South Dakota State University.

French’s work was included in the 2017 exhibition Women at Work: South Dakota Artists at the South Dakota Art Museum. She shared this Artist Statement at that time: It could be a conversation replayed, an image recalled, a thought tossed around, a dream remembered, a face reinvented or even just a moment stopped in time. It could be from yesterday, today, or a long time ago. Soon an idea begins to emerge that I want to capture and transform into a story I can tell in my work. As I visualize the many possibilities, shapes and drawings begin to appear in my mind and in my sketchbook. Soon my hands are moving the clay and my imaginings give way to the physical form.

I am fascinated with the process, from the moment the idea develops until the time the work is finished. The physical closeness with the material is essential for personal satisfaction. To push, pull and stretch the clay as it takes its final form is exciting. And I love color; I always have. It’s Crayola time all over again. Decorating the surface gives immediacy to a process that can steal hours from the clock. The clay is the canvas, ready to quickly accept the final interpretation as I build up the layers of color, watching one disappear as another appears. Each ending is a surprise but finally the tale is told and the work is ready to share.

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