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Pottery and painting on display

WORTHINGTON -- Both Dan Sorensen and Wayne Thompson hail from Swea City, Iowa. But that's not the only thing the two men have in common.

They are both artists -- Sorensen a potter and Thompson a painter and sculptor -- and retirement has given each man an opportunity to more fully explore his favored mediums. Together, they will share their work in an exhibit opening Sunday at the Nobles County Art Center in Worthington.

"I started out studying to be a painter and discovered pottery kind of on the side," explained Sorensen, who operates Stone Cellar Pottery at his home in Swea City.

Sorensen attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where an instructor had a connection to famed pottery master Marguerite Wildenhain. Sorenson was given the chance to spend a summer in California, studying with Wildenhain.

"Upon returning, I became a teacher, ended up teaching 35 years in the Swea City school system, met my wife there and raised a family of three children," Sorensen detailed. "I retired three years ago, in 2003, and since then I've pretty much been devoting all my time to making pottery."

Sorensen will bring more than 40 pieces of wheel-thrown pottery to be exhibited in Worthington.

"Basically, it's stoneware, pretty much functional," he described. "I like to go by the Bauhaus tradition of form follows function. Marguerite was a student of the Bauhaus, very much a form-follows-function type of potter. A lot of them are a decorative type of pottery, but almost all of it is usable, either as a vase or pitchers or whatever it is intended for."

With a studio housed in the basement of his home, Sorensen said he works harder at his art now than he did during his many years in teaching. A recent highlight for Sorensen was participating in a show called "Ripples," a Wildenhain legacy show that featured her work as well as the work of 50 of her students.

"I always see her looking over my shoulder when I'm making a pot. Will she like what I'm doing?" said Sorensen about his now-deceased mentor.

While Sorensen received some expert instruction in his craft, Thompson is largely self-taught.

"That can be either good or bad," reflected Thompson. "In one way, I'm not having some art teacher saying this is the way you have to do it. On the other hand, I might need another's help that way. It's not all black and white."

Thompson is a retired farmer who spent his life on a farm west of Swea City. He became intrigued by bronze sculpture during a trip to the southwest United States.

"I was visiting my wife's sister in Tucson, and just before we left, they had a big Western art show," he recalled. "We went down there and looked at it, and they had a lot of bronzes. I thought, 'Geez, that looks interesting. That would be fun.' Having said that, at that time, there wasn't much (information) to find about it, books or anything."

After watching a bronze artist at work in a foundry and investigating the costs of having someone else pour the metal, Thompson became determined to build his own equipment. Soon, he was engrossed in the process.

"It's just kind of like walking in quicksand," he said, "the more you're in it, the deeper you get."

At the Nobles County Art Gallery, Thompson will show about a dozen smaller bronze sculptures as well as 16 paintings, which are a more recent undertaking.

"These paintings will be what you could call abstract. You see, my eyes have gone bad" due to macular degeneration, Thompson explained. "My understanding of abstract is you don't have to color within the lines. I'm enjoying the painting, too. I guess I'm more interested in seeing what people think about them."

The opening reception for the exhibit will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday in the gallery, located in the lower level of the War Memorial Building, 407 12th St., Worthington. Hours are 2 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Phone 372-8245 for more information.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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