Field Dug Over
May 21 - June 20, 2021  
Bad Water Gallery
Dimensions Variable

The Appalachian range is a barrier for east to west travel, with ridge lines and valleys oriented in  opposition to highways and railroads. Deep grooves are cut from the faces of mountains to  accommodate our movement. Driving on Interstate 40 with the windows down, I imagine my arm  outstretched, grazing the dips and folds in the rock face.

In preparation for Field Dug Over, Saffronia asked me to send her photos; photos of the ground when  walking around, of clay deposits, of crags and bluffs. Although the work was made between Western  Massachusetts and Chicago, Illinois, careful attention has always been paid to the landscape and history  of where the work would be shown in Knoxville, Tennessee. Careful attention reveals that mountains  have been moving while seemingly holding still beside us.

“Fold mountains” are created where two or more of Earth’s tectonic plates are pushed together. At these  colliding, compressing boundaries, rock and debris are warped and folded through a process called  orogeny. In the same vein, Saffronia uses foraged clay from many sites, pressed firmly into a mold, akin  to how a brick is made. Different clay bodies collide and compress. Creases and wrinkles develop then  fold on top of each other. Glaze sinks into furrows and forms depressions that hold the same shine and  depth as the surface of a water-filled quarry. A “fold mountain” usually displays more than one type of  fold, and much like the mountains, these sculptures contain many bends and buckles. In the firing  process, the once tightly pressed clay settles into a gentle slump. While this work is informed by research  from documents on the history of Tennessee potters and Chicago brick makers, it is guided by  movement – photos sent between places, sediment shifting, relocating to a new area, matter  transported in the back of cars.

If you were to touch your hand to the face of an Appalachian mountain while on the highway at 60 miles  per hour, the shale would flake, the limestone would hollow, and the sandstone would crack and crumble  into smaller rocks, eventually turning to sand and mud that might press and uplift into a mountain, or  maybe be scooped up into a bucket to become an object. In Field Dug Over, E. Saffronia Downing  shows us that although it takes millions of years of orogenic shifting to create a mountain, there are many  ways to move the earth around us.