Get to Know the Artists: Jenni Ward

May 12, 2017

Get to Know the Artists
Art in the Arboretum: Environmental Installations

Several of the artists participating in Art in the Arboretum: Environmental Installations shared their personal histories and thoughts on art and being an artist and responded to the questions below.

Jenni Ward
jenni wardJenni Ward is a California based ceramic sculptor who creates abstract pieces and installations inspired by nature. Her mission is to share the beauty she sees in the natural world through her art.  Ward has shown her work at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, the de Saisset Museum, and at the annual exhibition at the NCECA conference. She has been featured in Ceramics Monthly and Ceramics Now magazines. Inspired by biological forms with a particular focus on structures, she finds her time spent connecting to her environment and exploring way above and way below sea level as an integral part of her work. Using clay as her primary medium, Ward builds in parts and assembles the pieces into ephemeral arrangements in nature. Her installations play with the connectivity of the form to its environment and in turn the connectivity of herself to the natural world. 

Ward describes Tree Pools, one of the two pieces she created for Art in the Arboretum: Environmental tree poolsInstallations: “These cone shaped pieces were inspired by a combination of seedpod structures and bubble patterns making them appear to be from land or from sea. In this installation, they will be nestled into the earth to create a pool of blue around the base of each tree. The pieces will radiate out from the trunk in ringed patterns that echo the rings of the tree and the ripples of a stone thrown into water. This piece speaks of the connections between movement and stillness; a rippling pool with pattern of bubbles that is quietly rooted to each tree.”

umbel seriesFor the Umbel Series, Ward was intrigued by natural structures and the biology of how things work in nature. She explains, “Lately, I have specifically been looking at umbel shapes in flower structures, which is a flower whose shape resembles an umbrella. I’m attracted to these structures for the visual volume they create while remaining delicate and light at the same time. In researching flower structures, I also came upon a story of the wild mustard plants of California. The story has many variations and most are believed to be folklore, but the basic premise is that the Padres and explorers to form the Missions left behind a trail of mustard seeds as they traveled from Mexico to California so that the seeds would grow and the bright yellow mustard flowers would color the path between each mission for the 800 mile pilgrimage. I love the idea of being able to track your path through the wilds of the world by following a color. While wild mustard flowers in reality are not the umbel shaped forms I’ve been researching, I loved this story so much I thought I could combine these concepts together to create an impactful installation.” View more of Ward’s art at

What person, place, or event has been a primary influence on your work and why? I have made art since I was a little kid. I've never had a time in my life when I stopped making art. I'm so grateful that I went to a series of public schools that valued their art programming and offered art classes from kindergarten through high school. All of these opportunities prepared me for applying for and receiving a bachelors degree in art and that has ultimately shaped my entire career. 

Adjectives that best describe you as an artist/person: Driven, adventurous, resourceful.

Adjectives that best describe your work: Abstract, organic, structural

  hive series   tidal pool series   Fire and Water series
                      Hive series                                   Tidal Pool series                       Fire and Water series

If you had a personal philosophy/motto, what would it be? B CR8IV.

What might surprise someone about you/your work? I like to take my work out into nature to “return it to the wild.” I have placed it in creeks, redwood groves, on the beach. Once I did an installation on a shipwreck 70 feet beneath the Atlantic Ocean and documented the installation with an underwater photographer.

What are your thoughts on the Art in the Arboretum: Environmental Installations exhibition? I'm really excited to see how the exhibit will change throughout the seasons. As we install, everything is green and the ground is soft but as summer approaches the grasses will brown and the puddles will crack with drying mud and I wonder how this slow seasonal change will effect the way the work engages with the environment.