We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 5th in our series on Supper Table Artists.
Originally from Russia, visual artist Olga Yukhno lives in Columbia, South Carolina, where she is the Gallery Director for the School of Visual Art and Design at the UofSC. After learning and creating in multiple art forms, Yukhno found a home in ceramic sculpting, where she feels that she has no limits.
With ceramics, Yukhno can create anything that she can imagine and even those which she can’t. No two of her completely handmade pieces are identical. Yukhno has used the limitless possibilities of her craft to create a place setting in honor of Sarah Leverette for the Supper Table.
Sarah Leverette was, and is, a powerful inspiration to women in and outside of South Carolina, having spent her life breaking glass ceilings wherever she went, from the Civil Air Patrol to the School of Law at USC.
Yukhno’s place-setting honors all the different aspects of Leverette’s remarkable life. The artist says she wanted to use her piece to “show the parts of her life that were the most significant and impressed her the most personally.” Having been impressed by Leverette’s quotations, she incorporated them all around the border of her place-setting, using small wing symbols with the logo of the Civil Air Patrol. From there, each layer from bottom to top represents a different period of the subject’s life.
As Yukhno says, the book represents her contribution to the library system of South Carolina, to which she dedicated 15 years of her life. Despite her contributions, school officials at USC would not make her faculty because she was a woman. The next tier of Yukhno’s place setting contains multiple nails, which represent the obstacles Leverette faced to become a full professor.
The very top culminates in a bowl showing a fist having just broken through a glass ceiling. As Yukhno says, “Leverette’s whole life was dedicated to fighting for women’s and civil rights, and the element of this broken glass is repeated throughout the piece to show the relevance of this pursuit throughout her lifetime.”
Finally, the goblet was created with multiple hands supporting it, to “show that in everything she did, she always built other people up.” Leverette was a mentor to many well-known lawyers who themselves brought about significant changes and continued the fight for people’s rights.
Carla Damron is a professional writer (The Stone Necklace, USC Press, 2016) who uses her experience as a social worker throughout her work, as witnessed in her novels Keeping Silent and Spider Blue. Damron has spent over 20 years focusing on her work in mental health, where she connects this to her novels in hopes to fight stigmas surrounding the topic of mental illness. Her very own clients have been her best teachers.
Damron used her background to tackle the task of writing a creative non-fiction essay about the life of Sarah Leverette, a task she was more than ready to tackle and conquer. As Damron says, “[Leverette’s] words, and her spirit, live and breathe in our state’s constitution, its code of laws, and in all the people she touched.”
The following is an excerpt from Damron’s essay on Leverette:
Sarah always wanted to emulate her heroes Lindbergh and Earhart. And now, as a member of the Civil Air Patrol, she was about to take her first flight.
She climbed a ladder to the biplane wing, grabbed hold of the edge of the cockpit, and hauled herself into the copilot’s seat. She grasped the seatbelt and clicked it into place. Snug goggles covered her eyes. Behind her, the pilot started the plane, which gave a little shimmy as it roared to life. Breath entered her lungs in short gasps. She was nervous. Excited. Ready.
They moved. The plane bumped and rattled up the runway, getting louder and louder as the pilot lifted the throttle. Sarah held to her seat and swayed with the movement.
Faster. She couldn’t see the speedometer but knew they were approaching eighty-five, full throttle, as the nose of the plane tilted up. As they lifted off, all smoothed.
She looked above, the sky a vast blue bowl with a few feathers of white. She looked down: Trees became green pencil pricks. A wide, turbulent river was just one of many of Earth’s many arteries. Everything was different here. How wide the world is, she realized, when you are away from the clutter of land.
To read more of Damron’s essay and to see more of Yukhno’s place setting, be sure to reserve your copy of Setting the Supper Table at the $50 sponsorship level or above on the Supper Table’s Kickstarter campaign page at the link below, and join us this September as we unveil the Supper Table for the first time.