Nurturing the magic
were so gentle and kind and happy. Part of what our work tries to do is
hold on to some of the beauty and spiritual energy of the people and make
that constant amid all of the turmoil there." —Jenny Pohlman
Express Arts Editor
image: two American women with small backpacks, as it happens artists,
riding an old public bus through Zimbabwe in the summer of 1997. There are
goats tied up on the roof of the bus, chickens at their feet. Dozens of
Zimbabwe women headed to market with their woven baskets are packed into
the beat-up bus as it rattles along a dirt road.
Jenny Pohlman and Sabrina Knowles, had approached the trip "as though
it were a study of Zimbabwe culture," Pohlman said recently. They
wanted to learn about family structure, the dwellings, their traditions.
out to be much more.
will never be another trip for Sabrina and me like that. Zimbabwe was the
journey of a life time. We were like 10- and 11-year-old kids filled with
just wonderment and awe and total innocence. We had no reason to fear
anything and I think that’s why nothing bad ever happened. I really
think you can create things."
things they did—beautiful, alluring forms with glass and metal and other
media seamlessly integrated. For Knowles and Pohlman are glass artists,
collaborators, and, perhaps more to the point, celebrants of life and the
magical elements inherent in it.
pieces of their work will be exhibited in a new show titled
"Passageways" at the Friesen Gallery in Ketchum. Friday evening,
from 5 to 7, the gallery will hold an exhibition preview with the artists
work emerged—work Pohlman described as nothing "that you would see
in Zimbabwe … or Ghana or any African sculptural book,"—is an
informative tale of how friendship and collaboration and experience can
yield fine art.
Pohlman and Knowles were doing solo work and first shared an art studio in
the Seattle area years ago, they had "opposite aesthetics,"
Pohlman said. "Before you knew it, we were beginning to integrate our
aesthetics." They had always been good friends, and as Pohlman added,
"when you have good friends, without discussing it, you share the
same kinds of passions and beliefs."
those beliefs were forged in childhood. Even prior to their African trips—they
took a second trip to Ghana in 2000—both women embraced ancient
cultures. "As kids, we were running around picking up arrowheads, we
were both into native lifestyle … that’s just in us." They also
collaborated on a number pieces with a lot of adornment, "matriarchal
type forms, female figurative forms and such" prior to the African
pointed out that their collaboration works because they have the utmost
respect for each other as individuals. Even when they disagree on
aesthetics, they "give each other time and freedom to experiment and
express. And then we join each other. Then we let one person run through
the meadow, then we catch up and we run together and then split off."
happened to us emotionally is that when we went to Africa, we had an
opportunity to embrace a culture we would have liked to have been a part
of. That longing, that purity, of being grounded with the Earth, being
joyful even if you don’t have a million and one things hiding in a
people were so gentle and kind and happy. Part of what our work tries to
do is hold on to some of the beauty and spiritual energy of the people and
make that constant amid all of the turmoil there."
second trip to Africa was a less positive experience. In Ghana, the two
women felt very much outside the culture. There was a great deal more
social strife and desperation than they had found in Zimbabwe. It caught
them off guard.
The trip to
Ghana, if anything, "strengthened our convictions in seeking out the
beautiful places and moments and celebrating them, because so much of the
world does live in desperation and lack of spiritualness . If we can be
fortunate enough to find it and hold on to it, even if it is only
momentary, that’s to us, a gift. In Ghana, we coined the phrase with the
help of a taxi driver’s assessment … that spirituality is a luxury.
When you are struggling for the basics and you are exhausted and you’re
sick ’cause you have AIDS or malaria… you don’t really seek out the
spiritual side of life. You’re just struggling to stay warm at night.
Since we do have that luxury, we shouldn’t squander it. We should share
Pohlman’s current work does reflect one aspect of Ghana, that of its
colors. Both artists tend to be very conservative when it comes to
bringing new colors into their work. "We focus so much energy on form
and balance and harmony and curvature that color tends to be the last
thing we integrate."
As to new
projects, Pohlman said their next trip would be to Asia, perhaps Thailand.
Their goal is to go out and see things before they are altered and changed
too much, "to keep fueling the fires that we have—that there is a
magic in life, and that it can be nurtured."