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John Lamb, Published January 21 2010

Fargo glass-blower Jon Offutt: Shaping landscapes

As a glass-blower, Jon Offutt used color and line to create flowing patterns in his formed vessels. Now the Fargo artist is using the same tools to create static imagery.

Offutt recently unveiled a new direction of depicting landscapes in glass with a series called “Dakota Horizons.”

He discussed his new “pictorial” work in his Fargo studio. The work can be seen in shows at the Hotel Donaldson dining room and the Art Connection.

What was the inspiration for these landscapes?

The amount of traveling I do in North Dakota. That hugely strong horizon line has always been a comfort to me.

How do you make the images?

My goal is to always create the work all hot. No sandblasting. No gilding. No enameling. Just fire and material. A lot of my recent work is getting material to react. When dissimilar colors touch, the middle becomes powerful. I make a small bowl that’s the land, and pick up that bowl with a large bubble that’s the sky. How I manipulate the joint is how I create the different horizon lines. I work with different opacities of gray, white and blue to develop more subtle skies. My favorite winter scenes are the ones you can’t tell where the horizon line ends and the sky begins.

Do you think working with more identifiable imagery rather than rhythms and color designs opens more opportunities for you?

I do. It’s this real step forward from craft to art with a capital “A.” The response has been very positive. Jan Webb (executive director) from the North Dakota Council on the Arts wants to buy one for the state collection. (On Wednesday Offutt confirmed the piece “South of I-94” was purchased by the state.) The deans from North Dakota State University gave a large horizon bowl to (former university president Joe Chapman) as a going away gift.

Are you inspired by landscape artists?

I would have to say the Three Amigos: (Painters Bob) Crowe, (Dan) Jones and some of Carl’s (Oltvedt) older work. The local landscape we have a very strong relationship to the environment around here, so much good art is landscape oriented.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533