Janis Mars Wunderlich

Artist Statement

My art expresses the complexities of intimate relationships as we traverse the trials and triumphs of our human experience. As we grow and mature, we become aware of our sexuality, passions, instincts, and desires to form intimate associations as we transition from childhood into the role of caring for and nurturing others. Through this cycle of growth, our weaknesses, dependencies and vulnerabilities are revealed, and our experiences and close relationships help us transform and evolve as we gain maturity, charity, wisdom, and strength.

There are strong parallels in ancient works of art from world history. Archetypal objects and images depicting, femininity, masculinity, sexuality, and nurturing represent the core of our human experience and are apparent in every ancient culture. Many of the earliest art relics are fertility figurines that depict the procreative nurturer. This signifies the importance of familial relationships and sexuality as central to the development and propagation of ancient civilizations. My sculptural forms continue this sociological conversation in a contemporary context.

A significant part of my life has been dedicated to the role of nurturer and protector - instinctive duties that are equally sustaining and consuming. I symbolize this dichotomy in my art through the representation of a central mother figure that is often overlaid with layers of small child-like and anthropomorphic figures. The interactions between the mother figure and her living appendages provide social narratives depicting the joys and struggles of family life. The burdens of domestic duties and parental responsibilities result in satisfying pleasure and excruciating pain, both of which ultimately strengthen our character. This process may be likened to the athlete who pushes through waves of exhaustion and pain to build strength and endurance. During an athlete’s workout, muscular fibers tear, allowing for a new level of expansion and regeneration and resulting in increased power. This physical process mirrors the emotional and spiritual growth we can potentially acquire as we experience life together in intimate familial relationships.

I am currently experiencing a personal transformation as my children are maturing and becoming independent. My physical nurturing responsibilities once consumed all of my time and energy, and now I am shifting to an emotionally supportive role. My empty hands and body are free of creatures and living appendages, and I am left to redefine my identity and rediscover who I am at the very core. My new work introspectively explores my sexuality and our complex interior systems, with highly detailed skeletal, nerve, and vascular textures emerging and pulsing on the exterior. Beautiful, fascinating, and mysterious, these delicate details seem to expose the vulnerable interior, yet reveal the meticulous and miraculous inner workings that provide vitality and strength for the body.

My work ultimately explores the intimate physical, emotional, and spiritual connections we create on our complex journey through life. Though my experiences as a nurturer and partner are uniquely individual, they are part of a universal dialogue that transcends every culture, time, place, and race to reveal the essence of humanity.

-- Janis Mars Wunderlich


Born in Akron, OH, Janis Mars Wunderlich received her BFA from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah and MFA from The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH. Currently teaching Ceramics and Design at Ashland University and Ceramics at Ohio State University, Janis has led hundreds of workshops and visiting artist presentations at art centers and universities throughout the US and Canada. Considered to be a contemporary ceramic master, her detailed ceramic sculptures have been included in numerous exhibitions and museum collections throughout the world. Janis was featured in the documentary film, WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS? and has been the recipient of several awards and grants, including multiple grants from the Virginia Groot Foundation, The Ohio Arts Council, and an international Residency Award through the Greater Columbus Arts Council. Janis is a prolific studio artist, community activist, mother, and a Boston-qualifying marathon runner. She is represented by Sherrie Gallerie in Columbus, OH.