Data and Dirt – Sandra Cowan

Data and Dirt – Sandra Cowan

This body of work is about place, and the ineffable quality of place. I am curious about the numinous quality we experience in some places, sometimes known as spirit of place, or by the Tibetan word drala, which may be easier to perceive in places that are known as spiritual or sacred sites. It is something we can perceive and that affects us when we are at the site, but cannot easily be communicated through photography, language, quantification, or anything beyond direct experience.

Each sculpture is about a particular place in North America or Europe that I have visited in recent years and felt some connection with. I investigate sites by walking, sensing with all my senses, and being-with a place. I collect soil from these sites, with the assumption that soil, as actual residue of the site, retains some of the numinosity, as well as the chemistry and biology, of course. Each piece also incorporates human-mediated data about the place – this could be census or demographic data, geo-spatial data, climate data, data about the flora & fauna, historical data, or any variety of other kinds of numeric data that humans collect in order to understand, define and identify a place. The work is in clay, and each piece has some of the soil from the place it refers to mixed in with the clay, so it carries some residue of the place. Somewhere in between these two natural and cultural media – dirt and data – I attempt to work with the spirit of a specific place in each sculpture.

Artist bio:

Sandra Cowan is a librarian at the University of Lethbridge and is engaged in various creative projects involving words, lines, terrain, clay, walking, and photography. She has spent many years in New Mexico and Newfoundland, both of which inspired her with their dramatic landscapes and diverse and artistically rich cultures. Since moving to Alberta in 2011 she has developed a deep appreciation of the horizontal line.

Date:November 20th, 2021  -  January 15th, 2022

Location:Casa - Concourse Showcases

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