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Jo Jenks

Craftsperson · Sculptor
Born December 30, 1903, Rye, New York
Died October 29, 1995, Silver Spring, Maryland

Jo Jenks on her relationship to Willhelm Reich:
Woman Washing Her Hair was his favorite piece, and, though he had seen only pictures of it he wanted it. - Offshoots of Orgonomy III

Josefa Ben-Shmuel was a sculptor and graphic artist for thirty years under her maiden name of Jo Jenks, before marrying fellow sculptor and teacher Ahron Ben-Shmuel. She did direct carving in onyx, granite, and alabaster and worked in bronze, plaster, and ceramics as well. She is known primarily for portraits and female nudes, or rock women, as she called them. Active in the Progressive Education movement, she helped found the Mount Kemble School in Morristown, New Jersey and taught art there until 1937. She also taught at Columbia and Temple Universities. Jenks was a serious student of Jungian child psychologist Frances G. Wickes and later, she joined the Wilhelm Reich movement and sculpted the bronze bust of Reich that adorns his tomb in Maine. After her marriage to sculptor Ahron Ben-Shmuel in 1961, she changed her medium to weaving, under the name Josefa Ben-Shmuel. Her tapestries were done on a high vertical loom, by hand, with the help of a simple dinner fork, tightly pressing fine strands of wool over finely twisted cotton warp to combine color and texture, similar to the medieval technique known as Gobelin.

Image: Photograph of Jo Jenks (Josepha Ben-Shmuel), 1980, courtesy of Penny W. Caccavo


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