A fascinating collection of uniformly sized egg-shaped ceramic sculptures by Jennifer Langhammer is on display at Featherstone’s Pebble Gallery this month. The series, which includes 27 unique pieces, is titled “Ovoids and Ovules.” Ovoid simply means egg-shaped. The word ovule refers to the botanical equivalent of the egg, or ovum, in biology. The title suits Ms. Langhammer’s work well. The majority of her ceramic pieces are decorated with raised abstract designs, many of which resemble vegetation or animal life.
With a few exceptions, each of the six- to eight-inch “eggs” features intricate three-dimensional growths in a variety of colors and forms, which makes the collection a captivating study as a whole. The designs conjure up images of lichen, mosses, fungi, sea plants, succulents, small crustaceans, animal scales, and even twisting tentacles.
“People have their own perceptions,” Ms. Langhammer said. “The more abstract a piece, the more interpretation. People will tell me they look like food or underwater scenes. I feel it reveals a lot about the person.”
The sculptures have interesting names that often reference their inspiration. “Lucy Vincent” is studded with small clay pebbles made from clay harvested from the cliffs. “Heqet” is named for the Egyptian frog goddess. “Oodite” is inspired by a geological growth referred to as “cave pearls.” “Antoine,” a lumpy gold figure that resembles a meteor, is named for Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, author of “The Little Prince.”
Ms. Langhammer refers to her work as organic abstraction. “My process is informed by the growth and evolution of living things,” she said. “The pieces are based on nature, but mostly abstracted.”
If art imitates nature, in the case of Ms. Langhammer’s work, nature instructs art. Ms. Langhammer says the figures seem to “grow” on their own. “My process of making them is a very organic one,” she said. “I don’t work with a sketch. I sort of let it evolve on its own. When I make my sculptures, I start out with a concept, but sometimes they take on a life of their own.”
Ms. Langhammer uses a handbuilding ceramic process as opposed to wheel throwing. She sculpts the individual forms, then creates the decorative elements by using lots of small clay constructions which she sculpts individually and attaches using something called paper clay. “It works like glue,” she said. “With the pieces that have a lot of detail, it allows me to stick them to a form. Paper clay allows me to do pieces with a lot of little details.”
Before moving to the Vineyard in 2006, Ms. Langhammer studied at the California College of Art in San Francisco and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. However, she only started experimenting with her current media about seven years ago, when she discovered the ceramics studio at Featherstone Center for the Arts.
Since then, she has found that the medium suits her vision well. “Orbs and ovals have been important in my work since I began making sculpture,” Ms. Langhammer said. “Round is natural, organic, and feminine. The egg shape is particularly fecund.”
Prior to working on the ovoid pieces, Ms. Langhammer created an installation titled
“Forest Floor”: a large-scale ceramic environment which was featured at Stonehill College as part of their “Visionary Vistas” exhibition. In 2011, the artist created an outdoor sculpture garden at Felix Neck Sanctuary, using bittersweet vines to construct a tableau of large-scale animals. Ms. Langhammer has exhibited her work in San Francisco, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, and Boston, as well as at a few place on the Vineyard. A recent piece of the artist’s was chosen for the Museum of Fine Arts Summer Party Auction. “Ovoids and Ovules” made its debut in February at ArtSpace Maynard, just west of Boston.
In all of her recent work, Ms. Langhammer has turned to her favorite area of study: nature. As she notes in her artist’s statement, “As a child I walked with my eyes on the ground, searching for treasure, which I often found in small natural objects. I still find the patterns and details of things like seeds, bark, and leaves beautiful and extraordinary.”
Jennifer Langhammer’s “Ovoids and Ovules” will be on display at the Pebble Gallery at Featherstone through April 28, with an opening on Sunday, April 10. Also on Sunday, the Virginia Weston Besse Gallery at Featherstone will host an opening for the Martha’s Vineyard Visual Arts Teachers’ Show. For more information, visit featherstoneart.org.