The work of Harrisburg ceramicist Kirsten Olson and Carlisle textile artist Carol Reed are grounded in connectedness, space and memory in contemporary times.
Together they have assembled a joint exhibition at the Carlisle Arts Learning Center in which they both use natural and recycled materials in innovative ways that are both grounded in history and are forward looking. “Inherent Energy” is a platform in which both artists shine through their complementary styles.
Olson is a ceramic artist whose work is strongly grounded in anthropology and takes inspiration from Northern culture.
Her forms and patterns recall the shapes of baskets, hats and mukluk patterns, while the glaze and kiln firing process also reflect textures associated with natural materials, such as bone, ivory and wood. She says of her work, “I create vessels which not only contain the food and drink that nourish, but also contain the ideas of culture and community.”
Olson’s contribution to “Inherent Energy” is one group of ceramic vessels similar in their glossy white glaze. Delicately decorated with thin black lines, their beauty is in their simplicity. Larger pieces such as “Sewing Kit Jar” and “Liminal Jug,” both made from wood-fired porcelain with black slip inlay, are gracefully shaped creations that at once have both a primitive and modernist feel.
No less impressive are the more familiar shaped “Patterned Bowls,” “Liminal Cups” and “Primary Mugs.” Olson has transformed the utilitarian into extraordinary. “Utilitarian ceramics are unique in their ability to draw people together as they share in nourishment, ideas, and create community,” Olson explained.
Olson also brings to the exhibition a group of darker colored pieces that directly draw upon influences from Northern culture. “Comet Plate” has fossil imprints upon the surface from which colors trail around the shell shapes, to resemble the “comets.”
“Loon Plate” and “Caribou Plate” are decorated with drawings that pay homage to the style of cave drawings. “Seal Bowl,” “Seal Hunt Trough” and “Three Seals Bowl” are all made with wood salt fired, red stoneware clay with slip. They too, are decorated with drawings referenced in their titles, echoing relics of the past.
A series of five “Parka Patterned Stools” made with wood salt fired North Carolina clay, truly resemble the stools fashioned by animal skins. Olson draws upon her influences in a respectful way, honoring the heritage and craftsmanship of the Indigenous peoples.
Carol Reed employs many media, although her work usually includes a textile component. The tactile quality and source of the raw materials serve as inspiration. She often uses recycled materials repurposed from normal use. For Reed, the history of the material adds additional layers of meaning to her work.
In Reed’s “Summer I, II and III,” she uses dyed materials, such as rust dyed cotton, fresh leaf indigo dyed yarn and indigo dyed silk, which are wrapped around the frames to create beautiful abstract constructions. The use of the dyed materials gives a light, seasonal palette to the scenes.
“May You Live in Interesting Times” is virtually devoid of color as a wall hanging constructed with paper, graphite, porcelain, avocado dyed wool roving and copper. Paper is woven between strands of string that is anchored by pieces of wood. The paper is ripped from top to bottom, curving like winding road, and the negative space left by the tear becomes the focal point of the overall composition.
Subtle commentary on current issues are suggested in “Walls People, Walls People,” created with indigo dyed cotton, recycled Mexican receipt paper, copper, charcoal and wool. A wall is constructed in front of a group of people. Once again, the hanging is woven with paper and string to represent the wall. The bold indigo blocks offset the plain paper receipt blocks to make a striking contrast to the crowd standing at its base.
Reed also constructs three-dimensional pieces, such as in “When Pigs Fly ...” an intriguing avocado dyed wool roving with beeswax sculpture. The rope-like material is wrapped and woven into circular shapes. The shape can lead one to compare to common objects like bird’s nests while also alluding to Surrealist Meret Oppenheim’s well-known “Object (Fur Breakfast),” which is a tea cup constructed of fur.
The works of Olson and Reed blend to present a refreshing, clean and sophisticated exhibition in the gallery. While their media and influences may differ, they are harmonious in their spirit and intent. Both exude exactly what the title of their show describes, and it is their combined “Inherent Energy” that shines through.
One can meet Olson and Reed at a special art salon talk on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 1 p.m. and learn more about the gallery exhibit, their methods and inspirations. For more information about the artists, visit their websites kolsonceramics.com and carolreed.org.
“Inherent Energy” is on display in the G.B. Stuart Gallery at CALC, 38 W. Pomfret St., and is available for viewing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays until Sept. 2. The exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.CarlisleArts.org or call 717-249-6973.