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February 6, 2017

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Prairie: Traces

February 6, 2017

Please join Ashley Padgett and me this Thursday, February 9, from 5-7pm, at the Heritage Gallery in Des Moines, for the opening reception of our dual show, Compilation. Drinks and snacks will be provided. This show will run Monday, February 6th, through Friday, March 17. Gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 11am-4:30pm.

 

I will be showing Prairie: Traces. Standing seven feet high and nearly seven feet wide, the piece contrasts unyielding steel and fragile porcelain while harnessing and focusing the natural elements of light and time. A twist on the ancient sundial, I’m really excited about how it works and am thrilled to be able to share it with the Des Moines community. The fragility of porcelain and the unforgiving hardness of steel remind us of life on the prairie: a delicate, subtle beauty belying incredible natural dangers. Distilling light and time into a single entity, we are unconsciously reminded of the roles each play in life on the Plains. Traces’ connection to the land is familiar to Iowans, who live surrounded by growth and sky.

 

This project is funded in part by the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 

If you want to see the piece in action, please visit this page. Click on the video that looks like the photo strip below.

 

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Here is the full artist statement for this work.

 

Prairie: Traces was made possible in part by a grant from the Iowa Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 

Prairie: Traces is made of porcelain and steel. Porcelain is a white clay that is translucent when it’s thin. As you can see in the photos and video, light passes through the porcelain. The piece was designed with natural light in mind. Ideally, this piece would sit in front of a large south-facing window.

 

One of the most frequent questions I hear basically boils down to, “Why did you make this?” There are several ways I could answer that question. I’ll discuss the two reasons that seem the most important to me – the prairie, and time.

 

This piece contrasts unyielding steel and fragile porcelain while harnessing and focusing the natural elements of light and time. The fragility of porcelain and the unforgiving hardness of steel remind us of life on the prairie: a delicate, subtle beauty belying incredible natural dangers. By distilling light and time into a single entity, we are reminded of the major roles each play in life on the Plains.

 

Traces’ connection to the land is familiar to Iowans, who live surrounded by growth and sky. The shapes of the porcelain panels are reminiscent of aerial views of farmland, and the texture of the panels references flowing river water.

 

I photographed this piece out on the prairie. It’s the largest piece I’ve ever made, but in the photographs scale is tricky to decipher because the space is so open. I love vast spaces. They’re comforting to me deep inside. I assume other prairie-raised people feel the same, and one of my goals with this piece was to allow people in the heart of the city to escape to the plains momentarily, without ever leaving town.

 

I had the opportunity to study abroad in grad school. During that time, I met up with a friend from high school who was currently living in Germany. We went to Istanbul for a few days. One of the most compelling things I saw there was the impact of human touch upon the architecture.

 

This subject has made its way into a few different pieces now, but I keep revisiting it because it was so fascinating to me, a girl from ND, where we’re lucky if a building is one hundred years old. Some of the buildings in Istanbul are 1500 years old!

 

When you have a structure that’s that old, some parts of it are naturally going to start to fall into some sort of decay, no matter how good the upkeep is. What was curious to me, though, were the places where people have inadvertently caused the erosion. In those places, the degeneration of the building’s original form didn’t seem like a loss.

 

For example, when you pass a marble column and absently let your hand trail around its corner, you don’t usually think you’re leaving a mark.  But if thousands or hundreds of thousands of people over one and a half millennia do the exact same thing when they walk past that exact same column, all of those casual caresses add up.  The stone corner becomes soft, rounded and smoothed into a new shape by nothing stronger than human skin. We don’t usually think about a random touch here or there affecting anything.

 

When you stop to think about it, how many little actions do you do each day, that you think don’t have any effect on anything in the future? I know I routinely spend moments of my time on things that I think don’t, or can’t possibly, matter 5 minutes from now. But what about 5 days from now, or 5 years from now? Or 500 years from now? It’s hard to say if any of my absentminded or unconscious actions will be present in the future in any way, shape, or form.

 

My second goal with Prairie: Traces was to get people to stop and think about time. To think about how we spend our time, and how our actions can unexpectedly affect the future. I decided to do this by making time visible, through the circle of light traversing across the porcelain.

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