Sagebrush artistry

  • 20th CENTURY PIONEERS: The Parks family, circa 1962; Julie holding Greg, Dennis with Ben

    Richard Parks

Nevada potter Dennis Parks celebrates his exit from the rat race in a new memoir, Living in the Country Growing Weird. With his wife and two sons in tow, Parks left a tenure-track professorship in Southern California 30 years ago, settled in Tuscarora, Nev., a ghost town, and founded a pottery school that today attracts students from around the world.

"The town and the valley made me restive: the sunshine and the big sky, the quiet pace and potential," writes Parks, whose book focuses less on pottery and more on how the rigor and beauty of the Nevada high desert imprinted his family's life.

The book conveys the challenges of a rural existence: how to raise your kids sans television, the economics of making a living in the boondocks, the all-important art of negotiating with drunken rednecks. Parks also chronicles the Tuscarorans' successful 10-year battle against a Colorado mining company that sought to prospect under their homes.

In the transformation from academic to potter, Dennis Parks became an inadvertent naturalist - an apprentice of clay and the sagebrush sea. As he searched the land for native pottery materials, his appreciation for Nevada's nondescript wild places deepened. Parks' memoir reveals the high desert as something more than a source of inspiration and unique ceramic materials; it reveals, often humorously, the extent "deep rural" has shaped his existence as an artist, 20th century pioneer and family man.

Living in the Country Growing Weird: A Deep Rural Adventure, by Dennis Parks, University of Nevada Press, 2001. Paperback: $21.95. 152 pages, 22 black-and-white photographs.

Copyright © 2002 HCN and Crystal Mustric