Hirschl & Adler, modern. exhibition 2008

A ribbon, a 3-dimensional line. Is it possible to create a single line of grace, a work simple, small, free of narrative, and at once intimate and infinite? That is the goal of this body of work. It abandons the visual complexity of ‘The Collar” series stepping back to exhale. But, intellectually, i was combining the singular shapes of the collars to create “fabrics”, “networks”.

2008-Catalog essay
“Great art is an instant arrested in eternity”

—James G. Huneker

A classical sculpture show amid an art world of bold political commentary and audio-visual installations? Is this relevant? Is it too quiet to resonate? Or, do these objects, more of contemplation than interaction, answer a longing?

My marble sculptures are intimate, visual symbols of the mental and the physical, meditative objects for thoughts that swirl up from the pages of my sketchbooks. The work is reduced to a core—ideas, time, and physical matter. They rest on limestone bases marked with conceptual fragments—words, drawings—which, when linked, provide a rich and vast context. These markings feel at once ancient and contemporary, scientific and spiritual. The insatiable demand for “the shock of the new” has infiltrated fine art, and I have, at times, felt myself spinning like a hamster on a wheel. Though recognizably a self-imposed emotion, the lens through which I see “what is possible” is informed by today’s context. This work is not an attempt to best myself, but to honor the humble nature of physical sculpture. There is no desire to overwhelm senses or to promote viewpoints. Instead, I look to initiate conversation.

I call these sculptures “Ribbons” and “Pinwheels”—words that feel light, an easy doorway to exploring my work. When I think of ribbons I think of movement, flow, braiding systems, graphs, music, the individual parts to a great pattern and, also, a simple device to tie a child’s ponytail. When I think of pinwheels, I think of happy days in theme parks, targets, swarms, the chaos of patterns in motion and tension. For me the “Pinwheel” is a symbol for new consequences, it is the accumulation of “Ribbons.”

I like difficult things. I like to measure myself. I like competition. I like to have a dialogue with something that is non-human. Stone affords a timeless conversation; it will last longer than I, no matter what I do. How is the rock shaping my hands? My shoulders? What does it do to me, while I am so focused on doing something to it? All the stone I used to create these works, found me. It has “baggage,” a life before this form, a unique history. Ribbon #17, Standing was carved from a discarded Italian marble banister, taken from an eighteenth-century loggia in Verona. This adds depth, an unseen fragility. I give new life to old materials. I reshape the stone in extreme and contemporary ways, pushing its technical boundaries.

My work plays with intuitive notions of gravity. As I fold the precarious strips of my ribbons, I adapt to the various restrictions in the stone that emerge unexpectedly in the course of carving. These ribbons are shaped more by the structure from which they are born than by concepts growing in a vacuum. A line. Simple folds in a blanket. My father’s sheets as they spill over the side of his bed; his blanket when sitting in a chair. If I follow the crest of the fold, I can feel the weight of his forms and the strength of gravity. There is so much emotion to describe what I see. It is not a rational viewpoint, but it is real. Yet, this is only a line that does not touch his skin. This, too, is a line of a ribbon, the edge of depth.

What lies at the core of my work—my inspiration—is a desire to study and uncover the complexities of nature and the systems that exist already. My pursuit is one of discovery, not a competition for creating new forms for their sake alone. At the root of science, art, and religion, the purest commonalities exist, linking past, present, and future. I prefer the quest for understanding the nuances of those commonalities.

If I devote my time to sanding this marble, it is my time that I give to you. Is this not the most significant of gifts? Can artwork that is earnest and simple, be heard? Yet, a sense of earnestness in art can be perceived as saccharine. Still, I continue to err on that side. I like working with stone. I like creating art not knowing exactly where the path lies. It is the reflective life, the process, which imbues meaning and answers my own longings to simply “be.”

My previous body of work, “The Collars,” exhibited at Hirschl & Adler Modern in March 2006, focused on the matrix created by repeating fundamental shapes, singularities creating structures. The new series, “Ribbons & Pinwheels,” brings the vantage point outward, from the matrix itself to the fabrics created; from molecules to macrocosm. “Ribbons” and “Pinwheels.” These two words together represent the individual and the group. Individual parts defined by specific natural perimeters (ribbons) organized or, rather, grouped and in motion (a pinwheel) becoming something more, an entity governed by complexity. Where the words for this body of work are a touchstone for larger concepts, the sculptures are the artifacts of actions, planned as well as spontaneous. Art is more of an idea than an object, but it is the object which resonates qualities that are not bound by words.

Elizabeth Turk
Summer 2008