Himba | Himba Portrait Series

Himba Portrait Series

Throughout our 25-year collaborative career we have visually expressed the strength, grace and wisdom of women using molten glass as our primary material.  Our passion for person-to-person exchanges with people living in traditional ways in a modern world motivates us to travel and meet remarkable women.

Along with working as collaborative sculptors, we have explored photography independently since the 80s, seriously engaging during our seven lengthy international journeys.  As photographers, we place particular emphasis on people and portraiture, since meeting people is what motivates us to journey.  Until 2008, our photographic efforts served to chronicle our travels.

Meeting women of the Himba culture, Northern Namibia, in 2008 was an unforeseen pivotal moment in our expressive development.  Like previous journeys, after a symbiotic exchange with several women we returned home with a treasure of portraiture.  We chose five images to frame and install in our home and studios.

We lived with these select portraits for several months absorbing expression and emotion, consciously and subconsciously and soon began asking questions:  How can we bring them into our visual narrative?   Are techniques available to get their images into blown glass?  What of distortion?  Would their essence translate through blown glass?  Can we translate their essence in blown glass?

Answering these questions opened a flow and included investments in classes, software, tools and equipment and required invention, endurance, tolerance, patience, conviction, support and love.

The Himba portrait series presented in our New Works window represent our multifarious technical explorations and achievements over the last 10 years integrating original photography with blown glass form.  Originating with portraits of Himba women, we have expanded our imagery to include cultural portraiture, symbolic imagery and original text and are making new discoveries for image application as we continue our studio exploration.  Thank you for your support as we continue this journey of thought and discovery!

March 2018

Lodestar Show | Artist Statement

Jenny Pohlman
Sabrina Knowles
Artist Statement
October 2017

LODESTAR:  Principle, interest or person that serves as an inspiration or guide.
Oxford Dictionary

Throughout the last year, like many people, our world has gone from hopefulness to dismay and disappointment, to uncertainty.

When we were asked to do this show in March of this year, we asked ourselves “What will we show?”  The space is so vast and beautiful, what can we do to reflect what we are thinking and how are we feeling?  Two thoughts came to mind:  we are seeking clarity and we are reflecting on the times and on ourselves.  A show with predominately clear and mirrored work seemed an appropriate metaphor.

With Lodestar, we present an installation of signature compositions and works from our latest series integrating photographic images in blown glass.

Throughout our 24 years of collaboration we have created works that inhabit our beliefs of reverence to each other and the world we live in. Self-empowerment, liberation, compassion and the strength, grace and wisdom of women. We have had the opportunity to witness firsthand indigenous cultures that practice egalitarianism, reverence for the planet and an appreciation of the vastness of the night sky, a sky so laden with stars the you almost have to close your eyes to avoid a feeling of claustrophobia.  We often ask ourselves “can they show us what it is we have forgotten?”

We believe in the Magnitude of the Multitude and what it represents, that collectively we can affect change and create something more beautiful together than separately. We wish to show a feeling of reverence and solidarity together as is expressed in our Multiple Homage series and power through Luna, our Wheel of Liberation. Prayer beads are used in many cultures throughout the world, they can be used as a meditation and remind us that we can hope for something better.  The strength, grace and beauty of the Himba women, who we briefly met in Northern Namibia, inspired us to pursue photographic imagery in blown glass.

We hope you enjoy the show.

With special thanks to:  Tyrone St. Ours, Dave Walters, Scott Szloch and Kristin Elliot.

Wheels | The Wheel of Liberation, aka, Dandelion

Several incidents aligned resulting in the vision of our wheel of spears: In 2004 and 2005 we took two journeys to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia for a total of three months absorbing sights, sounds and experiences. In 2009 I took a printmaking class and printed a wheel of our Sankofa bird forms in silhouette. Three months after viewing these prints around our studios, Sabrina and I realized that we were looking at a two-dimensional study of a wheel of glass birds. Then came the drawings of The Wheel of Liberation and other wheels.

Because the original wheels were envisioned sans adornment we attribute their simplicity and our contentment with it to our time spent traveling in Buddhist countries where we experienced a sense of serenity on more than several occasions.

Our title, The Wheel of Liberation, originates with the symbology of our spears. To us they represent self-empowerment and freedom from oppression and were born from learning about the story of Nehanda during our 1997 Zimbabwe journey.

Aka Dandelion arose when we installed the wheel in its entirety. It appeared to us as a dandelion gone to seed, at a time when we were learning the many healing properties of the oft disdained dandelion.

We dedicate this wheel to the people of Cambodia who are struggling to restore their country.

Carving | Heads, Spears

Sabrina began to envision carving our heads and spears after our journey to South Africa in 2008 during which we flew in several small planes over incredible landscapes yielding natural patterns and animal trails.  She solidified her thoughts after I created a short video showcasing sand patterns on the shores of Copalis Beach in Western Washington.  You can view the video in the Film/Video section.  Also of note, she had thoughts of the adorned people of Papua New Guinea, whom we have yet to meet, while designing patterns.  We are planning this journey for late 2013.

Wheels | Wheel of Remembering

“The Wheel of Remembering”

The heron has long been the ourtalisman, appearing at times of great change and new horizons in our lives.

We began evolving the form with it’s long neck extended in 1999. While traveling Ghana in 2000 we learned of Adinkra symbols, a language of tribal symbols, some animal, some abstract. The Adinkra symbol of a bird looking over its shoulder (Sankofa) means, briefly translated, if there’s something in your past worth going back for, go back and get it.

To us, our bird form represents primordial memory. “The Wheel of Remembering” is symbolically a porthole to the ancient memory of healing and human survival.

February 4, 2011
Jenny Pohlman
Sabrina Knowles

Wheels | Wheel Musings

We arrived at this format through two-dimensional studies of our forms, during which time we saw the beauty of their silhouettes.  In this minimal presentation we have maintained the curvature, stylization and symbolism of form.

The outward simplicity of these works disguises the complexity of the separate elements aligning as a whole.

In this presentation we see modern, almost playful designs that trigger joy while simultaneously drawing us into a contemplative, timeless place.

Spears & Staffs | Ceremonial Spears

We call our spears our Liberation Series.

The first set was created in 1998 about six months after our Zimbabwe travels during which we learned much about the country’s revolution against the tyrannical Ian Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia, who seceded from Britain after being reprimanded by the Royal Government for oppressive actions against the native people.

We also learned of Nehanda, a spirit reincarnate who led her people through several liberation attempts, most notoriously against Cecil Rhodes in the 1800s. Alas, she was unsuccessful, tried, found guilty of treason and hanged in 1898. Her reincarnate was discovered in 1970, just before the War of Independence. She served to guide the guerillas through opposition territory successfully. Zimbabwe became an independent nation in 1980. The people are not, however, free from oppression.

This series symbolizes to us liberation, freedom from oppression and the fact that everyone of us has the right to become the best we can be during this fleeting lifetime.

We believe in the energy of the series donate a spear annually to Pratt Fine Arts Center to fund the Pohlman Knowles Teen Fund founded in 2000.

Homage | Homage Series

Homage is an evolution of our first collaborative endeavor begun in 1993. Our sculpted glass figures were inspired by a suite of pastel drawings created by our friend and artist, John Mark Fleming (1960 – 1994), his response to being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the early 90’s.  Before his passing we discussed transforming his two-dimensional figure into a three-dimensional glass form and explored this transformation with Mark in his wheelchair alongside us in the hot shop.  In time, with sculpted glass figures and carved wood burls, we created a short “And Counting …” series, the title referencing the book The Band Played On by Randy Shilts which documents the early development of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US.  

After Mark’s death we retired the series with the final piece gifted to his partner but shortly afterward found ourselves longing for the figures.  We revisited the presentation of the figures, evolving from wood to steel, and arrived at our Homage Series in 1996.

  Since then we have worked to mature our design with both glass and steel.  Our intent is to evoke emotion through simple gesture, a nod of the head, the bent shoulders – a reverence perhaps, an homage to life.

Each figure is solid sculpted by hand without molds.  The heads are applied as a glass bit and sculpted hot.  We apply color using the powder method whereby granulated glass color is sifted onto a hot gather of glass.  We case our color meaning after sifting the color onto a gather we do a final gather of clear glass over the color.  The head is also cased.  After cold-working the glass figures we bring them into the metal shop and custom-size the metal work to each figure.

Heads | Man as Art Series

We began working on these forms during a fellowship at the Creative Glass Center of America in the winter of 1999.

The inspiration for these, however, originated long before the fellowship and our African travel, when we were working on head forms for our female bird form.

Our enthusiasm for these head forms was renewed when we witnessed authentic tribal dancing in Zambia during our backpacking journey in 1997. The masked dancers became spirits from another world as they imparted morals and history and folklore stories to their audience.

Birds | Sankofa Bird

The heron has always been special to us, a talisman of sorts, appearing at exactly the right time.  So it was only natural that when we wanted to pursue a new bird form we chose the heron, neck extended in full grandeur.  We worked on it for awhile; the neck was a bit tricky.  Then we took a two-month backpacking journey to Ghana in Summer 2000.

While exploring that country and its many cultures we learned of an Adinkra symbol:  a bird looking back over its shoulders.  To the Ghanaians, this symbol, Sankofa, means “If there’s something in your past worth going back for, go back and get it.”  It has become an informal,  unifying national symbol and we saw it everywhere, painted on gourds, buildings, fences, posters, pop cans.  (Their bird form was not that of heron, but rather a rounder-bodied bird.)

When we returned to the hot shop we began to explore not the long-necked heron, but the Sankofa heron.  Through time this bird form has come to represent to us primordial memory, the memory of our ancestors, what we have forgotten about life memory.  In this bird composition series these forms amplify the subtle and complex curvature that can be achieved in glass.  For us they have a soothing, sensual quality.  We never tire of looking at them or pondering the value of memory.