permeable structure SILVIA LEVENSON EMILY NACHISON MICHAEL ROGERS KARLYN SUTHERLAND The Byre at Latheron House, Latheronwheel, Scotland
In the end, I began to see the barn as a permeable structure or transitional place between the comforts of home and the realities of the exterior environment that one must negotiate in order to live, to survive; and so intimately related to the rituals that sustain us. MICHAEL ROGERS
Byre Evocation, 2016 cast glass and mixed media
HABITATION Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. . . As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time.—C. S. Lewis1
process of living as well as its place. It is the space in which dramas unfold, a theater in which human and animal stories are told.
In 2016, Lani McGregor and Dan Schwoerer opened a new space for contemporary art made of glass in an unexpected and remote location on the northeast coast of Scotland: near the village of Latheronwheel in Caithness. The art and technology of glass—their business and their passion— drew them to North Lands Creative Glass, a small and extraordinary glass school and studio founded in the nearby town of Lybster in 1995 by Iain and Aline (Bunty) Gunn, with the help of the London glass and decorative arts scholar, Dan V. Klein, and Robert (Bob) Maclennan. Like the many artists who have passed through this corner of Caithness to study and work at North Lands, Lani and Dan came under the spell of a barren Scottish landscape that is still untamed in spite of the steady growth of its managed forests, herds of sheep, wind turbines, and stone towns. The vast physical spaces of Caithness—as local architect Karlyn Sutherland describes them—comprise earth (the flowing moors), water (the highcliffed vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea), and sky (an endless dome of constantly changing weather).
For Permeable Structure, the inaugural exhibition in the renovated barn that is known as the Byre at Latheron House, McGregor and curator Michael Endo chose three artists to make new, site-specific work: the American artists Emily Nachison (Oregon) and Michael Rogers (New York), and the Scottish architect Karlyn Sutherland (Caithness). To the work of these three, they added a sculpture by a fourth, the Argentinean artist Silvia Levenson (Lesa, Italy). Karlyn Sutherland’s installation addresses the structure of the Byre, and how light and time act on it, creating a kind of stage setting, or theater for living. Emily Nachison and Michael Rogers mine the environment, its human and animal history, and its myths and legends. Silvia Levenson brings in an element of the “other world,” the world of spirit. All of these works are folded into the metaphorical crucible of the Byre, yielding an unexpected and beautiful microcosm of all of the elements that make up—and make meaning in—our daily lives.
It was the warmth of the small and close-knit community of Caithness, too, that inspired Lani and Dan to purchase Latheron House in 2004, a former manse of the Church of Scotland that was built in the 18th century, to which was attached a derelict walled garden and an older, crumbling barn. Years of thoughtful restoration, which involved the skilled labor, management and care of many people, have resulted in a comfortable, modernized home filled with art and books, a garden overflowing with vegetables and flowers, and lastly, a barn, or byre, transformed from a place of habitation into a theater of memory, metaphor, and ideas. Although I have traveled to Caithness nearly a dozen times, my first visit to the Byre was in the fall of 2016. I was immediately enchanted, drawn in by the mystery of a timeless place redolent with centuries of human and animal activity. As I stood on the cobblestone floor, the word “habitation” came to mind with impressions of lives hard lived. I like the word “habitation,” which does not distinguish between human and animal energies. Habitation refers to the 4
KARLYN SUTHERLAND, Tracing Light, 2016 I thought about the passage of time, about how I could respond to the movement of the sunlight within the space by making work that served as a sort of calendar, or at least marks on a calendar. There is a rune (dagaz) that means “day” in Old Norse. It’s tied to light and life, and doesn’t have an inverse; there is no rune for night or darkness—both are viewed as a quality and absence of light.—Karlyn Sutherland Karlyn Sutherland’s Tracing Light installation addresses the architectural context of the Byre, illuminating and explaining its space through light. It also marks time through a complicated recording of solar alignments. “Over the course of two summers in 2014 and 2015,” Karlyn writes, “I produced a series of photographs and short videos documenting my movement through the Byre as I threw flour into paths and patterns of light to briefly illuminate intangible forms. I was taken aback by how visually striking the emerging imagery was, but it was hard for me to imagine that any translation of this idea into glass could be quite
I started to study the light more closely and in different ways, and began to trace its path in chalk. And suddenly I had a starting point. KARLYN SUTHERLAND
Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (July 26th, 2015: 10.53 AM), 2016 kilnformed glass, 20 x 39 x 0.25 inches
as strong. I started to study the light more closely and in different ways, and began to trace its path in chalk. And suddenly I had a starting point.” Karlyn’s process of documenting the movement of light through the space of the Byre was rigorous. She knew that she “would have to be meticulous about it in order for the work to have the chance to fully align with the sunlight at exactly the same time the following year.” With its uneven floors and rough walls, there was no level surface for Karlyn to work from, so she used the new roof structure as a datum, employing a handheld measuring tape and plumb bobs made from washers strung on threads. At the same time she tracked the light, she considered the passing of time and history, “both on a broad timescale, contemplating the lifespan and largely unknown stories of the Byre, and about my own comparatively short history in the area.” Later, when the installation was completed and she saw the sun moving across her planes of glass, she realized that her piece was about more than the synthesis of architecture and glass, that it reflected “a lifetime of knowing this landscape and this light.” The five glass forms that came out of Karlyn’s experiments with flour and her careful chalk outlines of light on the surfaces of the Byre were made for their “interesting geometries,” and placed in relationships to one another inside the Byre. Each form has one opportunity to be fully lit by sunlight each year. Wanting the installation to feel “ethereal and delicate, and for each piece to reference the movement of the flour as it fell and was carried by the air,” Karlyn used sheet glass and powder, replicating the action of her body throwing the flour inside the Byre by throwing glass powder onto a cut sheet of glass. After being transferred into the kiln, the powder was tack-fused. Each form, positioned in the Byre at a different height in relation to the body (mimicking Karlyn’s own physical exploration of the space), referred to a specific time/light event and had its own title: Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (July 26th, 2015: 10.53 AM) Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (July 26th, 2015: 11.15 AM) Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (July 31st, 2015: 1.04 PM) Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (August 2nd, 2015: 11.49 AM) Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (August 2nd, 2015: 12.04 PM)
The installation includes many more such date and time notations in chalk drawings on the Byre’s stone floors, walls,
wood doors, and slate furnishings. There are also hanging plumb bobs, and a table with materials, including notebooks with annotated drawings, a small sack of flour, thread, a stack of light shapes and notations recorded on tracing paper, pieces of chalk, and photographs of the space. Surprisingly, Karlyn did not associate her remarkable work of plotting sun alignments to that of her forebears, in nearby locations, thousands of years ago. Karlyn writes, “In a conversation after we’d installed the work, Michael Rogers passed comment on the influence of Neolithic sites that were constructed to align with the sun or the moon, considering my work as a response or reinterpretation of their fundamental principles. I was quite stunned by this— it wasn’t something that I had been conscious of, but at the same time I think that the influence of such sites is deeprooted and is undeniable.” Karlyn attributes her predilection for such activities to her sensitivity to conditions of light, which informs her architectural work. “Whilst we are living out our lives in a state of flux, the sun is on a cycle that is dependable and predictable,” Karlyn writes. “The importance of its presence, duration, and qualities in the buildings we inhabit is often overlooked, particularly in the Western world; we have become so used to (and reliant upon) electrical lighting that we are much less attuned to the contrast between light and dark. It is so detrimental to our sense of place.”2 EMILY NACHISON, Apparition, Constellation Room, Ghost Path (Nettles), 2015-2016 For me, the work is meant to transform the space into a mythical place. I wanted the viewer to enter the Byre and feel as if they were entering a space of magic. The use of glass in my work is metaphorical, symbolic, and literal. Glass is associated with magic, transformation, preservation and crystallization. I choose to work predominantly with clear glass because I am interested in these metaphors, associations, and symbols.—Emily Nachison Emily Nachison’s works—Apparition, Constellation Room, and Ghost Path—are responses to elements found in the physical and mythical environments of the Byre. Her works provide a nature-based context for the whole, just as Karlyn’s installation reveals light and time structures, and Michael Rogers’ installation alludes to the historical past. Collecting objects and folklore from the area and recording Caithness
and the Byre in photographs, Emily sensed an “ever present sense of myth, history, and artifact, that made the past feel present.” Two themes prevalent in her work—observation and preservation—informed her research collections around this project. “In the end,” Emily writes, “I realized that really what I was interested in was transformation.” In Caithness, Emily gathered elements from the natural environment for the Byre, such as mushrooms and rocks found in nearby fields, stinging nettles from the barn’s perimeter, and images of the horses on neighboring farms. Since mushrooms, nettles, and horses are recurring elements in folklore, she added a collection of fairy tales, myths, and old stories that would create a sense of fantasy and possibility in the space. “I believe that we project our own experiences and fantasies of history onto artifacts, sites, and locations,” Emily notes. “Secret histories are the stories contained in places and artifacts that have not yet been discovered, the stories we will never know and can only imagine.” The installation, Constellation Room, is made up of mushrooms, birds, crystals, and stones that Emily collected, took molds from, and then re-created in colorless cast glass. Stones were found on the floor, in the walls inside of the Byre, and on the outer perimeter of the building; many of the crystals were sourced in Scotland. The mushrooms that Emily cast in glass were foraged locally by Karlyn Sutherland, who made silicone molds of the deliquesced plants and mailed them to Emily’s Portland studio. Mushrooms have a long history of foraging, ecological, folkloric, psychedelic, and pop-cultural references. For Emily, “they represent the magic of the forest. They appear to pop up over night, they are mysterious, and they play an important role in modern medicine and science. When mushrooms grow in a circle it is called a fairy ring, and there are at least 60 different mushroom species that grow in these patterns.” The circular hanging of the glass dishes holding their glass animal, vegetable, and mineral specimens was inspired by such fairy rings, as well as by the ancient ceremonial stone circles that dot the region.
Ghost Path, which is closely connected to Constellation Room, consists of cast glass nettles whose fragile stems and leaves sprout from cracks in the floor, often adjacent to the hanging specimens. Nettles have a range of uses in traditional medicine and are employed in the weaving of a sturdy cloth local to Caithness. They grow throughout the
region, with thick patches of them typically occurring at ancient Neolithic-period sites. “Nettles create barriers and pathways throughout the landscape,” Emily writes. “In Celtic folklore, they indicate that there are fairy dwellings close by, and the sting of the nettle protects against black magic and other forms of sorcery. In fairy tales, such as the Wild Swans, the heroine of the story must collect stinging nettles in order to create a magical cloth that will save and transform her brothers.” The atmosphere of magic and fantasy is intensified by the twin glass horse heads that make up the sculpture Apparition, which abruptly bursts into view among the ethereal glass plants just as the large physicality of real
I believe that we project our own experiences and fantasies of history onto artifacts, sites, and locations. Secret histories are the stories contained in places and artifacts that have not yet been discovered, the stories we will never know and can only imagine. EMILY NACHISON
horses might disturb the peace of the Byre, their hooves trampling the rugged stone floors. Inspired by two white horses that Emily saw in a field near the Byre, Apparition explores “transformation and myth. There is a story that there was a pony buried in the garden of the Byre, and this is meant to reference spirits or a mysterious mythic presence, such as a vision or visitation by a ghost or phantom.” Displaying various stages of crystallization and decay, the heads are made of sandblasted cast glass and outfitted with manes made of long white nylon hair. A complex symbol, the horse or pony has many meanings, but perhaps the most intriguing in this context is that of the Scottish kelpie, a shape-shifting water spirit. “The name “kelpie” is derived
Constellation Room, 2016, kilnformed glass, steel, dimensions variable Apparition, 2016, kilnformed glass, powder-coated steel, horse hair, acrylic, 20 x 46 x 12 inches Ghost Path (Nettles), 2016, 3-D printed plastic, dimensions variable
Byre Evocation (detail views), 2016 cast glass and mixed media
from the Scottish Gaelic words “cailpeach” or “colpach,” meaning heifer or colt,” Emily writes. “Kelpies are said to haunt the edges of rivers and streams, usually in the shape of a horse or pony, luring unsuspecting people—especially children—into the water.”3 MICHAEL ROGERS, Byre Evocation, 2016 The space and the nature of it, the surroundings, Scotland itself really was my muse. Land, sea, and sky, the material sense of the environment, and the history of human existence in the area all fascinate me. Agrarian culture and seasonal ritual based on harvest, hunting, fishing, and keeping animals are all of interest. When investigating the Byre, I tried to listen to the silence, waiting for the whispers of suggestions. Disparate things began to form patterns and connections, forming constellations of thoughts and ideas. —Michael Rogers With all of the trappings of daily life that it implies—the tools, bottles, clothing, and barn swallows all made in cast glass—Michael Rogers wanted his installation for the Byre to do more than “just evoke a past life through objects. It was more a feeling of the past and how it permeates the present that I was going for.” Michael spent hours in the space, meditating on the structure and surrounding area, and he says that the space “told” him what to do. He thought of the installation as being a sort of theater with major and supporting actors, or a book of short stories leaning towards a novel that would suggest a unifying theme or story. Michael’s Byre Evocation relates to Emily Nachison’s Constellation Room and Ghost Path in that physical elements found at the site assume a life, albeit materially transformed into glass, that is both real and otherworldly. The first of Michael’s interventions encountered at the Byre are puddles of amber-colored glass honey (Byre Puddles) seeping from the bottom of the structure’s exterior walls. In the doorway, the puddles continue, converted into colorless glass, hinting that the space is “transitional and transformative.” The small windows of the barn’s solid wood door, engraved with images of bees—symbolic of diligence, loyalty, and industry—and poems by Forrest Gander (Byre Notes), set the stage for what is to be found inside. There, three large stalls with massive slate dividers each contain a large cast glass raven accompanied by an assortment of cast glass tools: a pickaxe, shovels, paintbrushes, a tack hammer and tacks, and a
plumb bob (Byre Tools). Embedded in the stone walls of two of the stalls are cast glass beams, which have replaced the original wood ones. Michael photographed how the workers renovating the Byre left their tools at the end of the day, and he found their chance compositions interesting. “The tools are also a tribute to the makers of the structure, the people who live in the area and who are still connected to the land and the environment,” Michael writes. “Glass in this case is very metaphorical, in that anything you make out of it becomes a ghost of what it was before. A glass shovel is not a shovel, it refers to a shovel. You can’t use it or it will break, you can only contemplate it.” Like the documentation gathered and recorded by Karlyn Sutherland and Emily Nachison, the research phase of Byre Evocation, was intensive, and the collection of materials ongoing. Details such as finding the right vintage leather shoes resulted in an unwieldy collection of old shoes “and 11
many happy eBay vendors,” Michael writes. “I only used one pair! And not just any wool for the shoes; it was specially ordered, as were the pins. Not just any pins, but hat pins of a certain length and color.” The old shoes that Michael mentions were remade in cast glass—their interior spaces filled with soft wool and stuck with hat pins—and mounted on the wall of the Byre (Pincushion Shoes). They refer to the primarily English and Scottish customs of hanging shoes inside the walls or in the attic of a house as a good luck device. A collection of amber-colored cast glass bottles (Byre Bottles), placed on a high shelf of one of the stone-walled stalls, serve a similar function of folk magic. Since the Middle Ages, glass goblets and bottles have been hidden in structures to ward off evil spirits. In more recent times, these have taken the form of witch bottles, which might be filled with protective substances such as urine, bent nails, or pins. The ravens (Three Ravens)—a recurring theme in Michael’s work—were influenced in this context by the well-known English folk ballad, The Three Ravens, published in 1611 by Thomas Ravenscroft, who shared his last name with the 17th-century English glass manufacturer (first name George) renowned for his invention of lead glass. The birds are in the “process of transformation” as evidenced by their black tint, which is either waxing or waning. They are wrapped with a cloth sewn with text—more poems by Forrest Gander— and pieces of lead and copper. Messengers and tricksters, ravens may signify that magical activity is in progress. A large cast divination glass (Scrying Lens), hanging from the ceiling of the Byre and inspired by the experiments of the infamous magus John Dee, also implies magical states. On a far wall, a forked glass dowsing stick (Byre Dowsing Rod), casually mounted above a set of paintbrushes, suggests that all of the tools present may be powered by both mundane and otherworldly forces. The inclusion of the dowsing tool also refers to the impressive line of male water witches in Michael’s family, of which he is one.
The placement of everyday objects with magical elements in Byre Evocation stimulates questions that are unanswerable, but intriguing to ponder. Culturally and historically, how important were alternative, folk-magic methodologies as tools of survival in challenging environments like Caithness? Can we even understand 18th-century people’s relationship to nature, or the vital importance of a well-built barn? “A barn close to the house is a mediating factor,” Michael observes. “The barn is the place in between, used by humans to
negotiate the wild and unruly outside, the attempt to harness nature. The activities in the barn are connected with rituals that sustain us, and my objects in this context are a form of conjuring, an attempt to make that connection to nature.”4 SILVIA LEVENSON, Strange Little Girl #6, 2013 I feel that this exhibition inhabits the space in a floating time.—Silvia Levenson Silvia Levenson’s Strange Little Girl #6 introduces a final element to the Permeable Structure exhibition, which is that of the other world. While nature and culture, including myth and magic, are emphasized in the three installations, Levenson’s cast glass sculpture of a Wellington-clad little girl, wearing a frilly white cotton dress, represents an alien life-form, a hybrid human-animal, with the little girl’s head replaced by that of a deer with large cloth antlers. Who is this shamanic being that lives between worlds, and what does she contribute to the stories of the Byre? Perhaps she functions as a genius loci, or spirit of place, illuminating the hidden world of unseen forces. Questions of identity and revealing—or making visible that which is normally hidden or cannot be seen—are central themes in Silvia’s work. The idea of making the visible invisible, or the invisible visible, is ideally suited to renderings in glass. So are questions of identity, when transparency might be desirable. During a visit to Caithness in 2016, just before the opening of the Byre, Silvia made a question out of cast glass words that she proposed to install on the roof of the Byre. This read, “Who in the world am I?” The query refers both to her sculpture and to the broader questions of identity and place that are prompted by the Byre itself. In discussing her work, Emily Nachison made reference to exploring a “secret history” in connection with the Byre. A secret history, or shadow history, is generally a revisionist interpretation of either fictional or real history that is claimed to have been deliberately suppressed, forgotten, or ignored by established scholars.5 The Strange Little Girl #6 acts as such a shadowy figure in the sense that she represents an invisible, contested history that exists in a space between the internal and external worlds, which may be felt but is not easily seen. “She reminds me of our connection with the Netherworld,” Silvia writes, “with this part of our lives
Strange Little Girl #6, 2013 kilncast glass, mixed media, 53 x 21.5 x 15.75 inches
Emily Nachison at the Cairn Oâ€™Get, Caithness, Scotland PHOTO M. Endo
not visible and yet so real. The white deer is a creature of myth and legend. In Celtic myth, it is an indicator that the Otherworld is near.” Like so many others who have traveled to North Lands Creative Glass, Silvia was deeply affected by Caithness, and her words beautifully capture the sense of timelessness and shared humanity that the landscape and its history inspires. “I was born in the extreme south of the world: Argentina,” Silvia writes. “When I visited Patagonia, I experienced a sense of the “end of the world.” Caithness is similar, but so different too. In Patagonia, I felt connected with the landscape; in North Lands, with the history. For me, Caithness is strangely connected to the inhabitants that left signs, stones, and monuments to speak to us across the centuries. There, I experienced a sense of belonging to humankind that I never experienced before, and a strong connection with my inner self. I love the fact that in this land, in the Byre, inside a little room, there is a strange little white deer—half girl, half animal—that reminds us of our connection with the intangible.”6 TINA OLDKNOW is an independent art historian living in
Silver City, New Mexico. She is the retired senior curator of modern and contemporary glass at The Corning Museum of Glass (2000–2015). C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1942; 2001 edition, p. 37. See http://www.goodreads.com/ quotes/93897-humans-are-amphibians-half-spirit-and-half-animalas-spirits-they-belong (accessed 2-21-2017). Many thanks to Lani McGregor for inviting me to write about the Permeable Structure exhibition. The Latheron Byre is an extraordinary space that will significantly impact the artistic landscape of northeast Scotland. Its existence is due entirely to Lani McGregor and Dan Schwoerer’s enduring passion for artists, and to their dedicated cultivation of glass as a material for art. 1
Karlyn Sutherland’s installation was made in Portland, Oregon. The blank glass panels were pre-fired, cut, machine-beveled, and sandblasted in the Bullseye Glass Klaus Moje Center for Research and Education. Later, the powder firings were made in a nearby private studio belonging to Abi Spring. Assistants: The R&E team at Bullseye (particularly Ted Sawyer, Tom Jacobs, and Paul McNulty) were central in the preparation and detailing of the blank geometric forms. The installation in Caithness involved Lee Sutherland (a local carpenter and joiner) who fabricated the secondary structure that the works are suspended from. Michael Endo, Michael Rogers, Laura O’Quin, and Heidi Schwegler also assisted with the installation. 2
All of the quotes by Karlyn Sutherland come from emailed correspondence with the author, January 15, 2017. Emily Nachison’s installation was made in her studio in Portland, Oregon and at the North Lands Creative Glass studio in Lybster, Scotland. Assistants: Katie Rettew (glass cutting), Ivan Carmona and Jordan Pieper (plaster molds). Karlyn Sutherland foraged and made silicone molds of the mushrooms that Emily cast in glass. Emily writes, “Because it is perceived as a fragile, mysterious and valuable material, people often become hyperaware of their body and their movements around glass objects, so I chose to display my work in seemingly precarious ways.” All of the quotes by Emily Nachison come from emailed correspondence with the author, January 14, 2017 and her artist statement. The Wild Swans fairy tale that she refers to is by Hans Christian Andersen, first published in 1838. 3
Michael Rogers’ installation was made in his studio outside Honeoye Falls, New York. He intentionally worked alone to make all of the glass elements. The wooden stands that support the ravens were made with Byron Conn, a local designer and woodworker. At Latheron House, Michael spent “the better part of 10 days just sitting in the Byre, photographing, writing notes, talking to and becoming friends with Bruce Sutherland, and his son Lee, who were working on renovating the space,” he writes. “Bruce introduced me to John Gunn from Latheronwheel—in his 90s I believe—who once was a shepherd and knew about such structures. I videoed and interviewed John when Bruce brought him over. I didn’t understand much of what he said, but the sound of his voice, the dialect, was so lyrical that I wanted that somehow visually in my work. John has now passed away. Bruce and Lee helped me install the cast glass beams to the walls of the Byre and even tuck pointed them to the wall for me.” All of the quotes by Michael Rogers come from emailed correspondence with the author, December 30, 2016. 4
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Secret_history (accessed 2-21-2017).
Silvia Levenson’s sculpture was made in her studio in Lesa, Italy. Assistant: Maria Scarognina worked on making molds and waxes. “Lani and Dan bought this piece and placed it in the Byre. It was not commissioned,” Silvia writes. “Even if I didn’t have in my mind this Byre when I made the piece, I feel it fits very well in the space. My white, ghostly Strange Little Girl is in the middle of the small old room. The dimension of the place, the natural light from the window, the stones, the air, the darkness make the Byre a natural place for it.” All of the quotes by Silvia Levenson come from emailed correspondence with the author, January 10, 2017, and her artist statement. 6
Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (July 26th, 2015: 10.53 AM) Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (July 26th, 2015: 11.15 AM) Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (July 31st, 2015: 1.04 PM) Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (August 2nd, 2015: 11.49 AM) Byre, Latheron House, Caithness (August 2nd, 2015: 12.04 PM) installed dimensions variable 20
TO THE PERSUASIVE AND PERSEVERING DANS You will only regret what you don’t do.—D.K. It is 2003. Standing in the potholed drive of a crumbling 18th-century manse in the northernmost county of Scotland, Dan Klein is selling me a dream: the fantasy that my husband (“my Dan”) and I might find meaning in owning a rocky plot in the barren and wind-whipped county of Caithness where unemployment, and making art from glass, are among the leading pastimes. A former Christie’s auctioneer (and co-founder of North Lands Creative Glass), Dan is proving masterful at leading me into what can only be sheer folly. Latheron House is the last thing that my husband Daniel (Schwoerer) and I need in a life already over-packed with operating a glass factory and an art gallery on the other side of the world from this Highland heap. But our Persuader, the irresistibly insistent Klein, regales me with stories of senseless compulsions that ended well. Now 14 years later, my Dan and I look back on this moment without a single regret. Our affair with Latheron House has given us years of blissful frustration and irreplaceable adventures. By the thirteenth year the plumbing and cooking facilities are far enough along that we can turn our attention to the crumbling stone barns at the back of the property. The expectation of replacing a few worn and missing roof tiles soon becomes the reality of a complete removal of all slates, sarking boards, and rafters, followed shortly by massive trenching and French drain installation along the
hillside walls. On the verge of Christmas 2013 our builders – neighbors from a nearby farm - unearth an 18th-century cobblestone floor beneath layers of concrete. Noticing my uncontrollable swoon, the Sutherlands suggest that we might like to add cobbles to an adjacent dirt-floored room – serendipitously, they just happen to have a small mountain of equally ancient stones removed from their own barn. And so it goes. New doors and windows, handcrafted by the brilliant joiner/son Lee; stonework reconfigured and repointed by the mason/farmer/father Bruce; small panes of period-authentic glass lovingly transported from Portland, Oregon to the Scottish Highlands. And on and on. Were it not for the artwork, Dan and I would be fussing still. But we’d targeted July 2016 as the Grand Opening of what is possibly the least-visited “art gallery” in the world. And the most magical summer of my life. For that fairytale moment and the years that preceded it I owe an enormous debt to a community of creative and talented makers: to neighbors and incomer/artists who have made taking Mr. Klein’s advice the smartest move of our lives. And to the two men in my life who made it possible. Thank you, Dan. Thank you, Dan. LANI MCGREGOR
Director, Bullseye Projects Partner, Bullseye Glass Co.
PHOTO L. McGregor
The places we visit and inhabit have a power over us. At times the effect is immediately evident â€“ a quick intake of breath as a striking scene comes into view â€“ other times it unfolds slowly. MICHAEL ENDO
Emily Nachison in residence, Scottish Highlands PHOTO K. Sutherland
BUILDING A PERMEABLE STRUCTURE In the summer of 2013, while touring the stone barns adjacent to Latheron House in Latheronwheel, Scotland, Lani McGregor began a conversation about the role that “place” has in the creative process. For years, artists have flocked to the far-flung northern edge of Scotland and have returned from their pilgrimage transformed, testifying to all and continuing to create work about their experiences in Caithness and in the studios at North Lands Creative Glass (NLCG). It is a place that inspires something in those who visit and spend time with the land, the people, and the ruins. The barns (or byre) had been recently reroofed, but there was no electricity, and the “windows” were open portals to the neighboring fields. Birds nested in rafters and arrow slits. Full of holes and cracks, it was very much like a ruin. Being so, this was the perfect place to plot out a series of events that would culminate in the current exhibition, Permeable Structure. In 2014, artists Emily Nachison and Karlyn Sutherland convened at NLCG for a two-week residency. They returned in 2015, joined by Michael Rogers, for two additional weeks. Tasked with making work in response to the building and the landscape, the artists worked in and around the Byre during these residencies. The process was circuitous and the work revealed itself slowly. Very little of what was made during the residencies can be found in the final installation. Emily, during her first visit, began casting hand-sculpted forms based on local folktales. Karlyn made hundreds of glass feathers out of delicately tack-fused powder and traced
light by dusting flour in the air. The second residency found Emily exploring local history by creating salt evaporators, and Karlyn used her camera and bits of chalk to record the light across the stones. Michael spent much of his visit to Caithness in the Byre, speaking with the highly skilled joiners and builders who were constructing the doors and cobbling the floors. It was in the Latheron House library with a bottle of whisky that the three artists came together, picked up the conversation that was started years before, and started to sketch out the final contours of the exhibition. Each artist would respond to one of the spaces in the Byre. Emily would make work for the larger hay barn, Karlyn, the horse stable, and Michael, the cow barn. That left a small, dirt-floored, chamber that separated the cow and hay barns. Back in Portland, Oregon, Silvia Levenson’s Strange Little Girl #6 had recently been installed in a solo exhibition. Ghostly and surreal, it seemed the perfect piece for the small chamber. Although it wasn’t made with a particular place in mind, it exudes a betweenness that mirrors the liminal feeling of the Byre and the surrounding landscape. Meanwhile, the stone workers in Caithness, while cobbling the small chamber, unearthed a large flat stone that would be the perfect pedestal for Silvia’s deer-headed girl. With the exhibition coming into focus, the artists departed Latheron House and returned to their respective studios. The places we visit and inhabit have a power over us. At times
the effect is immediately evident—a quick intake of breath as a striking scene comes into view—and other times it unfolds slowly. This is recorded in art and literature reaching from today to the Romantics, past Petrarch’s ascent of Mt. Ventoux, to the caves that were visited again and again for millennia by distantly related groups of people. Churches are built upon temples which were built upon sacred hills. Mountaintops, windswept coastlines, and deep forests; these places change us. It is a universal experience that is individually expressed, reminding us of our shared humanity, while also asserting our unique perspectives. So it was with these artists. Their experiences crystallized in the intervening months. Emily, reflecting on the last two years, circled back to stories of transformation within Scottish folklore. Karlyn, having traced the light, devised a
way to capture that process. Michael drew from the stories told in the Byre to develop his ambitious installation. One year after their meeting in the library and three years after the initial conversation in the ruined byre, the artists— Silvia Levenson, Emily Nachison, Michael Rogers, and Karlyn Sutherland—met in Caithness. Each invited fellow artists to join them for a ten-day symposium. The artists worked alongside one another, spent time in the landscape, and picked up the original conversation yet again. The symposium ended with the opening of the exhibition. And now, as the exhibition comes to a close, the conversation— embodied in each room of the Byre—waits for more artists who seek to be transformed. MICHAEL ENDO
Curator, Bullseye Projects
PHOTO M. Rogers
SILVIA LEVENSON Originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina, Silvia Levenson immigrated to Italy in 1981, during the â€œdisappearancesâ€? of the Dirty War. In 2004, Levenson received the Rakow Commission Award from the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, and in 2008 she was shortlisted for the Bombay Sapphire Prize. Her work has been exhibited around the world and is part of the collections of the Corning Museum of Glass in New York, the Toledo Museum of Art, the Museo del Vidrio in Argentina, the Museo del Vetro in Italy, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.
EMILY NACHISON Emily Nachison, born in San Diego, California, received a BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2006 and an MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2010. Nachison has had numerous solo exhibitions and has been included in multiple group shows across the country. In 2013, she received an Artistic Focus Project Grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council in Portland, Oregon. Nachison is the Fibers Department Head/Assistant Professor at the Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland, Oregon.
MICHAEL ROGERS After spending eleven years in Japan where he was head of Aichi University’s Glass Department, artist Michael Rogers returned to the United States where he is now a Professor in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. Rogers’ work can be found in the permanent collections of the Suntory Museum of Art in Japan, the Contemporary Glass Art Museum of Alcorcón in Spain, Museo del Vidrio in Mexico, Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv, Ukraine, and the Corning Museum of Glass in New York.
KARLYN SUTHERLAND Karlyn Sutherland studied architecture at Edinburgh College of Art and received a PhD from The University of Edinburgh, where she was later employed as a design tutor and research assistant. She began working in glass in 2009 when her research into topics of place and attachment led her home to Caithness, where she enrolled in a master class at North Lands Creative Glass. She has since gone on to exhibit her work nationally and internationally. In 2016, she was an Endeavor Research Fellow in the Glass Workshop of the Australian National University in Canberra. Sutherland was an artist-in-residence at Bullseye Studio in Portland, Oregon and at the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. Sutherland lives and works as an artist, architectural designer, and writer in her hometown of Lybster, Scotland. 31
Published in conjunction with the exhibition PERMEABLE STRUCTURE Silvia Levenson Emily Nachison Michael Rogers Karlyn Sutherland The Byre at Latheron House, Latheronwheel, Scotland July 28, 2016 - August 5, 2017 For artwork and artist information, contact Bullseye Projects 300 NW 13th Avenue Portland, Oregon 97209 503-227-0222 email@example.com bullseyeprojects.com PHOTOS (except where noted) Michael Endo DESIGN Nicole Leaper PRODUCTION Jerry Sayer PRINTING B+B Print Source
Â© 2017 BULLSEYE GLASS CO. ISBN 978-1-935299-23-3
Published on Jun 22, 2017
This catalog documents the inaugural exhibition at the Byre, a new exhibition space located in northern Scotland. Permeable Structure brings...