Jess Benjamin grew up in the irrigation ditches of rural Nebraska. She was one of the last be educated in a two room schoolhouse, know locally as “The Little Red School House.” Her father, Howdy, taught her about land management, geographical history, and farm markets as soon as she could handle a shovel: age 5. Benjamin spent her teenage years irrigating, harvesting corn and hay, building fences, and processing cattle.
Benjamin received her B.A from Hastings College and then moved to Omaha in 2002 to apprentice at the Jun Kaneko Studio. In 2008, she received her M.F.A from Bowling Green State University, Ohio.
Jess has recently exhibited at the Joslyn Art Museum, Museum of Nebraska Art, and at the Great Plains Art Museum in Nebraska. She is a recipient of the 2013 Nebraska Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship Grant. Her artwork has been published in Lark Crafts, “The Best of 500 Ceramics” and “500 Ceramic Sculptures.”
My artwork focuses on water usage in the Great Plains area: a regional concern that is related to the phenomenon of global drought. As a nation driven by the imperative of over-consumption, the United States has become dependent on commodities that require large quantities of diminishing water. Below the Midwest lies the greatest underground water reserve in the world, the Ogallala Aquifer. Since 2000, I have witnessed the drought-like conditions in the Midwest, and I have witnessed how people have responded to the drought.
Through my research on water, I have discovered many structural similarities between intake towers, jackstones, and water and ethanol molecules. These objects explain levels of water and drought. I use cartographic color, surface texture, and scale to aid in this understanding. My ceramic artworks reference the increasing struggles over water rights and are battered reminders of these problems. I hope that all who see my artwork begin to protect and preserve our most precious resource, water.