Retrospective celebrates local artist’s life and work

An art gallery in Minneapolis is celebrating the life and work of Amy Sabrina, a potter who for many years made her home on a farm in Dalbo Township.
Northern Clay Center’s Amy Sabrina Retrospective started on May 12 and runs until June 25. The exhibition features many works of pottery from Sabrina’s personal collection, as well as works on loan from her family and friends. The show was organized by Sabrina’s sister, Kathryn De Boer, in collaboration with Northern Clay Center.
Sabrina, who died in 2013, moved to Dalbo in 1997, where she lived on Sweetgrass Farm, worked on her art and hosted all-ages dances featuring live music. In 2011, she created a set of 10 handpainted ceramic medallions honoring the legacy of former Minnesota Governor (and founder of ECM Publishers, which publishes the Union-Times) Elmer L. Anderson; the medallions are displayed in the Princeton area library.
Sabrina’s professional artistic career stretched nearly 35 years following her graduation from the University of Minnesota in 1979.
When she died, Sabrina left stewardship of her work and legacy to De Boer and several others. De Boer also has an artistic background, in graphic design.
Sabrina’s pottery is distinctive for its pronounced use of pictograms and symbols. The ceramic plates, vessels, sculptures and other pieces in Northern Clay Center’s retrospective depict flowers, bees, birds, fruit and other woodsy emblems.
“Her work was definitely personal in nature,” De Boer said. “She used – especially in her later work – the surface to tell stories. … The overriding theme is her love of nature.”
Among the works displayed in Northern Clay Center’s retrospective is one De Boer said Sabrina felt was the most important piece of art she ever made. The piece is a life-size door frame made of ceramic tiles. Each tile features a pictogram, and many of Sabrina’s favored symbols are accounted for, including leaves, birds, bees and fish. In the exhibit at Northern Clay Center, there is a quote painted on the wall inside the frame: “In each of us resides a deep spring of creative energy. When we allow this to flow freely, we live intuitively and creatively in all areas of our lives.”
Sabrina didn’t just work natural elements into her art; she also made efforts to preserve the environment during her life.
“She planted over 1,000 trees on her property and made an effort to restore the prairie there,” De Boer said.
Another contribution Sabrina made to the community was hosting all-ages dances in her barn. These drew people in not just from Dalbo, but from as far as the Twin Cities, De Boer said. The dances featured a wide variety of music, including traditional Swedish music, zydeco and square dance tunes. People would even attend just to watch without dancing, De Boer said.
“I think she was a person that the town had never seen,” she added.
Northern Clay Center is located at 2424 Franklin Ave. E. in Minneapolis. For information on the gallery and the exhibitions it hosts, visit Northern Clay Center.

Amy Sabrina ceramic pieces.

 

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