Janet Fieldhouse: Body Ornaments

  January 27, 2017 - May 21, 2017

  Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection



The exhibition Body Ornaments by Janet Fieldhouse sits at the intersection between contemporary ceramic practice and the cultural traditions of the Torres Strait Islands that lie between Australia’s northern coast and Papua New Guinea. Fieldhouse has undertaken research to explore the cultural traditions of her people, specifically those of women, and sees her art as a way to preserve them for future generations. In her woven porcelain armbands, she used the traditional weaving technique that is used in the creation of mats, baskets and armbands that are woven with pandanus palm, a practice that continues today. The raku forms and the light boxes explore the artist’s desire to preserve designs from female rituals of scarification, where a woman’s skin is cut or burned to produce permanent markings in scar tissue. Although this ritual is no longer practiced today, the designs remain culturally significant, and it is these two-dimensional patterns that Fieldhouse transforms into her clay sculptures.


Janet Fieldhouse was a resident artist at Kluge-Ruhe in March and April of 2017. She worked with beginning and advanced UVA sculpture students in Professor Bill Bennett’s classes and led a full-day ceramic workshop at Piedmont Virginia Community College. She also gave a number of artist talks at the museum and at the local ceramic studio City Clay. Fieldhouse examined collections of Native American pottery at the Fralin Museum of Art and the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, and explored the possibility of 3D printing with help from UVA Library. In two full days at the Pamunkey Reservation in Tappahannock, Virginia, she learned about black firing techniques and processes from Pamunkey potter Debra Martin and black-fired several vessels using local clay. Her visit to Santa Fe at the end of her residency enabled her to compare black firing techniques of the southwest with those used by Virginia Indians. Click here to see a brochure of artworks that were inspired by Fieldhouse’s work with Pamunkey artists.

[I want] to bring back what is unseen, as a tribute to the women and life of the Torres Strait Islands, but also so the next generation will know that scarification was a strong part of our heritage.



Image courtesy of Kaiela Arts, Shepparton, Victoria.Janet Fieldhouse currently lives in Cairns and works as an Art and Culture Teacher at the North Queensland TAFE. She studied ceramics at the Cairns Technical and Further Education College (TAFE) before continuing her studies at the Australian National University in Canberra. She has participated in twenty-seven group exhibitions since 2000, in addition to four solo exhibitions: Unseen (2005), Woven (2009), Journey (2011) and Mark and Memory (2014). Fieldhouse has twice been awarded First Prize in the National Indigenous Ceramic Awards (2007, 2012). Her work is held in numerous public collections of Australia, including the National Gallery of Australia.



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Janet Fieldhouse: “The Sensibility of Ritual” by Joanna Bosse