Prairie Starfish / Glacial Epoch

Performance kiln/furnace, 20 ft. (6.1 m) diameter, steel, ceramic fiber blanket, propane, earth, borax, Qu’Appelle River Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada 1980.

Left: kiln, post-firing; middle: night firing of kiln; right: fused state, kiln removed.

Prairie Starfish/Glacial Epoch was developed in response to an invitation by the Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina, Regina Saskatchewan in 1980 to produce a kiln-based site work. The project involved geologic and research of the central Canadian plains, that focused on the Pleistoscene paleo-climate/paleo-geography of that area. Numerous episodes of Ice Age glaciation with episodic advancement and retreat of ice sheets often over a mile in thickness, characterized this time period and terrain, the starfish imagry, referring to this "sea" of ice and mythical inhabitants of that impossble sea. This research and project became a precursor to the Lahontan Group I-III, 1985-87, with its focus on the Pleistocene climate of the northern Great Basin of what is now Nevada, eastern California and south-eastern Oregon.
This work also echoed sculptures of the Exile Series and related works of the 1970's that employed out-of-scale bio/zoogenic imagery to consider issues of geologic time, geologic processes and the language of mythology. Sited on glacially-deposited loess sediment of the Qu’Appelle River Valley, outside of Craven, Sasketechewan, the alluvium beneath the kiln was treated with the flux: borax, green colorant and a dusting of kaolin to react to the firing to create a 3-4 in. deep glassified starfish image with floating islands of dryer material mimicing exposures of native rock outcrops encrusted with lichen. The engagement of the fire with the starfish-shaped kiln during the firing, had the effect of a form of conjuring, the fire becoming a primal vitalization of the form, playing with the border between myth and inorganic life.

A twenty one minute video, John Roloff, A Project for Regina, an Outdoor Firing, was produced by the Norman MacKenzie Art Gallery, September, 1980, documenting the building, firing and aftermath of the project.

Furnace Projects, Constance Lewallan;

Kiln Projects: Material and Process Experiments in/of the Landscape, John Roloff