Karla Nelson

Textures: Dakota Landscapes and Pottery



Artist Statement

 I've lived in North Dakota my entire life. I've been making marks on surfaces and creating three-dimensional art since childhood. One of my most favorite things to do is to leave the city and drive west along a highway, taking in all that nature has to offer. The converging lines from rows of crops, the occasional animal native to the area, how the sun plays peek-a-boo among the clouds, and especially the pastoral scenes of cattle and other domestic animals on the way, leave me with a feeling of happiness and peacefulness. In the last few years a new "animal" is appearing on the landscape. Wind turbines add a little more interest to our pacifying landscape. Their clean straight lines just barely use up the prairie footprint. Technology and nature seem to co-exist effortlessly. The wind turbines don't seem to bother the cows and the cows don't bother them.

When I first moved to the valley it seemed so dull and barren. But a closer look reveals the variety of colors caused by patches of indigenous plants carpeting the landscape. There is not a lot of visual noise to distract us from subtle differences caused from an occasional bush, a variety of birds, a ground squirrel or a deer. There is beauty in its simplicity.

It is this observation and love of nature that inspired me to produce this series of paintings. This textural technique of painting in layers was inspired by looking at some old tintype photographs with scratches and tattered edges. For the most part I used a limited palette of colors including blues, browns, greens, and yellows. My use of back-lighting in some of the early morning or evening fields add a bit of drama to what could otherwise be an unexceptional landscape. 

About 15 years ago I decided to go back to school for an art degree. I thought my concentration would be mostly on painting, but after taking my first beginning pottery class I got hooked. So now I split my two art loves 50/50.

This series is hand-made from slabs of porcelain. Using inspiration from my textural paintings, I impress different textures onto torn pieces of pottery and reassemble them into various shapes like bowls and vases. To further enhance the textures, I rub in stains and under-glazes. I then wipe it off, which leaves color in the depressions of the clay.

I attempt to push clay to see how much it will allow me to stretch, tear, impress, scratch into. I usually begin with a solid idea in my head, but keep an open mind because the clay's properties often lead the piece into a new direction.