Barbara Sorensen: Nature Artist

One could argue that nature was the first artist – carving astonishing
structures into wind-battered limestone, tracing the marks of absent
currents in dry riverbeds, drawing traceries of shadows on moonlit
fields and filigree patterns on icy windows. Such creations, both
ephemeral and enduring, have long served as inspirations for artists of
the human variety.

One such human, Barbara Sorensen, has been working for forty years-first
clay, and more recently resin and bronze-to create works that share
nature’s process of change, metamorphosis and ebb and flow. A student of
ceramic masters like Peter Voulkos, Rudy Autio and Paul Soldner, she
draws from the vessel tradition. She makes it her own by fashioning
evocative forms that conjure poetic images drawn from nature and human
culture. Sorensen’s works evoke a wide range of associations,
encompassing landscape forms like dunes, foothills and volcanoes, human
artifacts like boats, shields, and dwellings, and human figures, which
seem to be both emerging from and merging with the earth from which they

ultimate subject, is growth and change. Movement and energy are the
essence of life, characteristics of both the physical world surrounding
us and our own interior landscape. Sorensen’s works breathe with this
truth; in turn, they convey this truth to us.

Eleanor Heartney, Art Critic and Author

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From the Sacred to the Elemental

Echoing ancient tradition, Barbara Sorensen’s works—with their myriad forms and materials—are rich with meaning. Her works simultaneously refer to the landscape, act as metaphors for time and embody ideas pregnant with ceremonial and elemental implications.

From making works from the earth, Sorensen has progressed to making works that recall and embody those atavistic elements that form the earth. Whether working with clay, metal, ropes or resin, the artist continues to create haunting forms that carry multiple allusions and associations and reward extended viewing.

Barbara Bloemink, Former Curator Museum of Arts and Design

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Topographies: Barbara Sorensen

Her work consistently has sprung from her central concern for the Earth, its endless variations and permutations, her abiding respect for its materials, generative and eroding forms and immense forces, past and pre-sent and future. She has moved forward continually, to express herself in new ways, to state and restate her core beliefs, and even to turn them upside down; a modernist with a strong sense of the whole panorama of art, she has grown increasingly free in the ways she sees, evaluates, formulates and, instinctively, makes her art. In her most recent body of work, Sorensen sharpened her focus, paring all extraneous material away and reaching, provocatively, toward a personal, and highly resonant, abstraction.

Laura Stewart, Writer and Art Historian

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Barbara Sorensen: Sculpture as Environment

Over the years, Sorensen’s development as an artist has not just been a formal pursuit, is has also been working towards a synergistic relationship with her materials. With each new body of work, she progressively surrenders to the inner life of the clay.

Sue Scott, Independent Curator and Author

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The Matriculation of the Vessel

There is no doubt that the power of the earth is en-meshed in Barbara Sorensen’s works. There is a tactile quality in all her clay pieces that speak of the cragginess and topography of our environment.
Barbara Sorensen understands something many artists seem to forget. All cultures have objects of ceremony, ritual, celebration and spiritual power. Sometimes our society and our artists seem to be losing these powerful traditions. Sorensen has allowed her spiritual instincts and her humanism to inform her inherent object, the vessel, to demand a response from the viewer.

Jan Clanton, Associate Curator Orlando Museum of Art

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Thoughts: Rudy Autio

Some of her sculptural explorations have a hint of the figure, which I really like. They are understated and mysterious as she continues her search in expanding her knowledge of expressive ceramics. She builds on her inventive history of clay, developing new amazing forms, textures, space, and volume relationships. My admiration grows with her tenacious and significant development in the clay medium.

Rudy Autio, American Ceramic Legend, Artist

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Thoughts: Paul Soldner

From the intimacy of the early Princess Leia forms to the more recent human-sized Pinnacles, Barbara has not only played with scale, but her combination of non-functional forms with geological references have left her work embedded with metaphor. Although layered with meaning, there’s a clarity in her work that is both fresh and vibrant.

Paul Soldner, American Ceramic Legend, Artist, Founder of American Raku

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Thoughts: Don Reitz

It is always a pleasure to watch a student of yours continue to excel over the years in an experimentive way; pushing the envelope, exaggerating shapes, combining dissimilar forms, and using color and texture in an aggressive manner to create objects of significance. When these forms are put in their proper context, be it in a living space or an outdoor environment, they do not become answers about art, the viewer goes away asking a question. This, to me, is what art is about. Not telling the whole story, but giving you clues which you can assimilate in your own way.

I remember one afternoon at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Barbara was working with clay forms that were trying desperately to be exaggerated and outgrow the confines she had imposed on them. “Barbara,” I said, “Why the hell don’t you just let them grow?” And I’ll be damned if she didn’t. I applaud her willingness to take chances and not to become complacent with the ordinary. The new forms are setting standards again for the next series. Keep pushing the limits.

Don Reitz, American Ceramic Legend, Artist

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Site Specific: Echoes

Although her background as an artist began with clay, Sorensen now works with an array of material, from aluminum and foam to found objects. Her most recent pieces are inspired by the power of nature. These organic abstractions made of clay or mixed materials mimic the natural undulation of rolling hills and craggy rock formations. Sorensen is interested in how geologic evolution implicitly affects us not only physically, but also psychologically. Her installation titled Speleothem is a recreation of a sublime cavernous environment. With its dark and mysterious environment, inhabited by towering and hanging geologic forms, Sorensen creates an environment within the museum that momentarily suspends our connections with the typical gallery environment.

A series by Sorensen that does not address the role of nature is her Dwellings. These brightly colored forms resemble webbed cocoons. Sometimes standing, sometimes attached to a wall, and sometimes floating, these abstract sculptures act as three-dimensional drawings that question what is interior and what is exterior. For Sorensen, these are physical and visual depictions of bundles of spiritual energy. They are “dwelling places” for residual energy from the past that we cannot see, but coexist with everyday.

Adam Justice, Curator Polk Museum of Art

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