Jennifer Rose Wolken


About my Work

My artwork has always revolved around understanding myself, those close to me, and humanity as a whole, through an examination of relationships. This has taken various forms from Painting and Drawing to Artist Books, to most recently sculptural Artist Books made from combinations of mixed mediums.


Grief became a companion when I lost my Dad in 2015 at the age of 62. Thus some of my most recent work examines my relationship to my Dad as well as to my Grief. It also by extension, examines my relationship to illness. My Dad died of cancer, and I have about half a dozen chronic conditions that I was diagnosed with in my early 20’s. During this time I have also undergone a structural and historical examination of the book form as an object, and this has influenced the formal considerations of my work. Using the book form as a starting point, I began to break down the parts and pieces of my grief, and express it through these parts of historical book structure. Thinking about the history of the physical object that is a book as a form through which to express narrative sculpturally.


In my attempts to explore the potential of the clay medium in a book form I made a breakthrough. This dealt with the psycological and physiological connections between ceramic vessels and books as vessels to hold our thoughts, and through it I created what I call: Vessel Books. The first Vessel Book dealt with my feelings about my Dad being cremated. It is a hand build raku vessel that serves as the cover and spine for a book block that is sewn directly into the base of the vessel through holes drilled post firing. The pages are etched with my freeform thoughts on the subject; this etching only became visible after the pages were soaked in an ink dye bath. The page edges are also burned as an added reference both the inspiration for and processes used in the creation of the object. It is called Into the Fire.


Several more Vessel Books have followed, exploring differences in clay vessel forms by taking inspiration from the historical vessel forms, both open and closed forms from different cultures and using a variety of construction methods. I am translating those through a book artists eye for methods though which pages can be incorporated into them, as a response to the many facets of dealing with and illness and grief.


In researching the subjects that I am dealing with I have come to realize that Western Culture in this century does not deal well with illness, grief, or grievers. By dealing with chronic illness through my 20’s and 30’s; and also intense grief, my own and my families, for over 2 years I have seen first hand how society and individuals respond to these very human states. These are subjects to be swept away, hidden, gotten over as quickly as possible. There are so many stigma’s associated with how we deal with both chronic illness and death. I make my work mainly to work through my own emotions, but I show and talk about this work to bring another voice to light on the subject and maybe help to de-stigmatize these subjects. You can find more of my current work on my instagram account.


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