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Sentinel Portfolio

If you've looked at my portfolio page, you've probably noticed some large vessels. Here is the story of how they came to be.

When my two sisters and I were young, our parents frequently took us on long car trips across the state and across the country. We always brought gobs of “stuff to do” in the car. The backseat of our Buick, affectionately known as the Boat, was filled with piles of library books to be read, papers and markers and crayons for pictures to be drawn, bags of candy to be eaten, strings and beads to be made into necklaces and bracelets. And of course there were sisterly fights to be had and consequent threats of turning around to be made.

But often, especially as I grew older, I’d spend long periods of time just staring out the window, watching the landscape drop behind us. Getting out of our home state, North Dakota, involved driving for hours across the Great Plains. Given the thousands of miles we spent in the car, my happy and carefree childhood, and the fact that our small town was surrounded by the immense tracts of farmland and prairies of the Plains, it’s fitting that I came to love the landscape.

I became imbued with sensitivity to the vast amount of openness that makes up the Great Plains. I find the never-ending fields, lined with shelter-belts of trees or brush, all open to a huge bowl of sky, to be infinitely satisfying and watchable. The sameness of it all invites closer observation to the subtle nuances that are present. At the same time, there’s a perceived emptiness in the prairie. For me, the nuances combine with the “emptiness” to stimulate a feeling of limitlessness and possibility.

It’s easy to feel small and insignificant when looking across the plains. One gets the same feeling when encountering a towering mountain or the ocean stretching past the horizon; vast landscapes are a forcible reminder of the tiny part we play in a much larger whole. While no one likes to feel insignificant, the reminder can be reassuring, by connecting us to something much greater than ourselves – something we might not even be able to name. Perhaps Roger Lispey’s* words best illustrate what I am attempting to describe:

It needn’t even be called ‘the spiritual,’ but words of some kind will be found to describe an intelligence, a vitality, a sense of deliverance from pettiness and arrival at dignity that always seems a gift. It includes a perception of grandeur in the world at large, which cannot help but strike one as sacred, quite beyond oneself and yet there to be witnessed and even shared in.

With Sentinel, I aim to illuminate the vitality and grandeur of the plains through large ceramic vessels and photography. These Sentinels, made of the earth, stand quietly: watching, observing, and sharing in the glory of the prairie. They invite you to do the same.

*Herbert, L.M., & Schjeldahl, P. (2002). The inward eye. In L.M. Herbert and K. Ottman (Eds.), The inward eye: Transcendence in contemporary art (p. 15). Houston, TX: Contemporary Arts Museum.

Sentinel (large stoneware vessel)

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