The Corning Museum of Glass has unveiled Harbour Road, Lybster, the 2017 Rakow Commission created by Dr. Karlyn Sutherland.
Originally trained as an architect, Sutherland describes her work in glass as an extension of the sensibilities and skills she honed while investigating the attachments people form to place. Her autobiographical artwork is, “a reaction to vivid memories and intangible qualities of significant moments,” she says. “Each piece aims to evoke architectural space and atmosphere, distilling and communicating the essence of an experience.”
“The composition came from a series of sketches that I did whilst in Canberra [Australia] and thought about what it was to feel emotionally detached from place,” Sutherland said about the idea for the Rakow Commission. “The piece uses perspective drawing to offer a viewpoint that is physically unattainable and unreachable. It’s about describing that feeling of being a little uncertain and in between—of being anchored somewhere but feeling kind of detached at the same time, like looking at somewhere from the outside.”
Harbour Road, Lybster speaks specifically to the sense of disconnection Sutherland felt from her family home in Caithness, northern Scotland, in the days following her return from Australia. The home was built by her father—a boat builder by trade—with a keen attention to craftsmanship. As a child, she found particular joy in the deep sills of two windows that frame a corner of the living room. Harbour Road, Lybster recreates the spatial relationship of the living room windows and a picture frame that hangs beside them. Three stark black-and-white fused panels that make up the piece are dimensionally flat, but appear to project beyond the wall.
“Together, they create an unsettling sense of space, just outside of the viewer’s grasp, that mirrors the emotional disconnection Sutherland experienced when she visited her childhood home,” said Susie Silbert, curator of modern and contemporary glass at CMoG.
Harbour Road, Lybster was revealed at the Museum’s Behind the Glass lecture on November 9, where Sutherland was the guest speaker. The piece is now on view in the Contemporary Art + Design Galleries at CMoG.
“I hope that when people walk into the gallery and see Karlyn’s piece, they have to do a double take,” said Silbert. “Her piece is visually vexing—it requires viewers to look longer and more intensely to try to understand what these pieces are, what they might be made of, and what they might mean.”
A video interview with Sutherland was recently filmed to show the making of Harbour Road, Lybster.
About the Rakow Commission
Inaugurated in 1986, the Rakow Commission is awarded annually to artists whose work is not yet represented in the Museum’s collection. The commission supports new works of art in glass by encouraging emerging or established artists to venture into new areas that they might otherwise be unable to explore because of financial limitations. It is made possible through the generosity of the late Dr. and Mrs. Leonard S. Rakow, Fellows, friends, and benefactors of the Museum. Each commissioned work is added to the Museum’s permanent collection and is displayed publicly.