Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- Despite the number in the title, this installation is actually made up of 178 ceramic pillars. The other five are symbolic. The pillars may appear to look the same at first glance, but each one shows a unique pattern of wear on its surface. The pillars also vary in height from several inches to over six feet tall. The artist created the illusion of a long line of identical pillars that recede into the hillside.
- Artist Daniel Johnston designed this site-specific work to play against the rolling landscape of the Museum park. He built each pillar by hand using locally mined Piedmont clay. Then he fired each one individually in a wood kiln at his pottery studio.
- Johnston is a North Carolina native who lives and works in Seagrove, NC. He combines pottery-making styles and techniques from different cultures. He has worked as an apprentice under potters in Seagrove, a small town with a history of pottery making. He also spent time in England and Thailand, where he learned traditional methods of creating and firing pottery.
Installation 1-183 is a site-specific piece by pottery and ceramics artist Daniel Johnston. It was commissioned in 2019 and consists of 183 wood-fired clay columns — each of which Johnston hand-built out of locally mined Piedmont clay and fired in a kiln in his Seagrove, North Carolina, studio.
Seagrove became a home for potters in the 18th century, due to its abundance of clay for pottery and trees for firewood. Born in 1977, Johnston immersed himself in Seagrove’s pottery and ceramics culture as a teenager, apprenticing for local production potters to learn the craft and refine his talent.
The columns of Installation 1-183 range in height from approximately seven inches to seven feet. The tops of each column form a level line to highlight the dips and rises of the rolling hillside underneath. This means the shortest columns are on the highest points, and the tallest columns are on the lowest points. So, while each column is a different height, they work in tandem to create a straight line. Try standing next to the tallest column and look down the row. You may find that the columns appear to stretch farther into the distance than they actually do.
Johnston created each of the 183 columns using a combination of hand building and a thrown pottery wheel. As the wheel would spin, Johnston would build height by laying coils of wet clay in the shape of the eventual column. To match the curvature of the landscape and create the level line he desired, Johnston had to calculate what the height of each column needed to be, based on where it would rest on the hill — along with factoring in how much a wet column would shrink when it dried and how much it would shrink even further when fired in the kiln.
Johnston camped often on the Museum grounds to work through the night and complete the sculpture. Due to the sheer size and scale of the piece, he even had to build a custom kiln large enough to drive the columns inside for firing.
Resources for Teachers
- Read the artist’s biography.
- Read a review of a book about the artist’s pottery.
- Watch a video of an installation of the artist’s work.
Resources for Students