present - NOVEMBER




Yianni Doulis

I have a pretty fraught relationship with hobbies, and with craft interests that flame up hot and fade quickly. And I’ve been around long enough to have heard several times the dismaying words: “I’m starting to take ceramics classes...really getting into it.” Man, I can relate.

This left me completely unprepared for the javelin’s arc that Marjorie Dial’s career has taken over the last five years, leading up to the occasion of her current installation in this space on our farm, which she has called “Sky Inside.” It’s clearly the work of a mature artist – one who happens to be working in the medium of ceramics – but for whom the challenges of the material itself are already secondary to their being in the service of spatial revelation and myth making. Given how much of a hurry she seems to be in, I have to hypothesize that all of it was sitting in her, ready to get into the world.

The space of Dial’s installation was one of the things that drew us to the property ten years ago, its patina and prismatic clarity. There is a tension between the enclosure of the walls and the openness of the ceiling, between holding and leaking – a tension that informs the two types of object in the building, which she has called alternately Receivers and Transmitters; Vessels and Towers; Antennae and Dishes. What the space used to be is irrelevant: it has been temporarily and convincingly transformed into a field observatory.

One of the pleasures of installation art that is really doing its job is all the questions one doesn’t need to ask: why is this thing here exactly, how is one supposed to look at it or move around it, wouldn’t a video or a drawing be as good at making the point? Until talking with the artist about preparing for the opening, it never occurred to me to think how the installation came to be, to think about process at all. I say this with bafflement and admiration, because I know how much process and refinement and work is behind anything at all worth doing. This is to say that the installation is mature enough that its facility is invisible, and one is left to focus on its revelatory qualities. Of course a vessel holds the rain that has been falling into it for weeks; but the particular way its glaze plays with the surface of the walls and reflects the sky makes this fact newly strange, rather than a tautology. Sky Inside holds several such surprises to be discovered by engaging with it.


Marjorie Dial grew up in Columbia, South Carolina and received her BA from Yale University. In 2019 she graduated from Oregon College of Art and Craft with a MFA in Craft and received the MFA Award of Distinction. She has participated in several group shows as well as a solo exhibition, Drowned World, at Eutectic Gallery in Portland, OR. She recently spent the summer as a Resident Artist at California State University, Long Beach. She is also developing a property in Western North Carolina as an intimate retreat for ceramic artists. The residency is called Township10.

Dial’s practice is animated by the proposition that we are engaged in a deep search for meaning, connection, purpose and pleasure. Much of this seeking takes place hidden from awareness in submerged, unconscious spaces. Her work includes ceramic sculpture, print-making and writing.






give the blows

make the correction

draw the line


        is a channel

The spare, deteriorating structure on Sauvie Island drew me in. Part of my fascination lies in the tension between shelter and exposure that it embodies. Its history as a farming shed yielded to other potent, present functions––a vessel, a transmission station, a lament for what is lost. In the end, the structure drove the form, color and placement of ceramic sculptures, at once fixed and changing as the sky above. This project gave me the opportunity to sink into the site’s evocative logic more deeply––I wrote poetry, considered deep space observatories, learned about near and far field theory. From this exploration emerged themes of reclamation, communication, and longing, as well as a keen awareness of environmental change. Are we receptive to the pulsing current of information above us? Did you look at the sky today? What did you see?