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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

An Environmental Art Playground

Greater Reston Arts Center celebrated the completion of Patrick Dougherty's environmental landscape in the middle of Town Square on April 25.  
Children ran through the maze and explored the many twists and turns of Patrick Dougherty's site-specific sculpture in Reston Town Square on opening day, April 25. Their excitement is much like the frenzy of artistic creation. Dougherty and numerous volunteers had spent three weeks building the monumental construction, thanks to the sponsorship of Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) and the Initiative for Public Art-Reston (IPAR).

Making art is about being playful like a child, being open to the unexpected coincidence and experiencing the freedom that comes the joy of creation.  Spectators continues the process. "The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact to the external world....and thus adds his contribution to the creative act," in the words of Marcel Duchamp.

Sue-Chen Cuff's Gin Dance company will bring bring another free-flowing inspiration to Town Square this Saturday, May 16, at 1.p.m and 11 a.m. the next day, as part of the GRACE Arts Festival.  Groundworks will dance The Arc of Us at 4 p.m. on Saturday and 12:30 p.m the next day.  Ravel Dance Company and Classical Ballet Theatre will perform other works of choreography composed especially for the event and to interact with the sculpture.

The Reston sculpture is recognizable as fitting into the natural  stick work for which Dougherty is known.  At the outset, the artist had a plan with several drawings. The project changed as it took shape and brought about unexpected ideas.  Essentially it is a weaving of huge branches which huge sticks entangle themselves and form unexpected shapes.

The process began over a year ago when he gave a talk to the over a year ago and explained the project.  GRACE and IPAR spent a long time planning it and assembling additional volunteers. Dougherty and his assistants "harvested" the sticks and fallen branches from a site in Loudoun County, Virginia.  Other supplies and materials were left over from his last project at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia.

"A Bird in the Hand" is the name suggested in the end. It is perishable, and can be expected to last about two years.  Those who work or live in one of the high rises will have will have a bird's eye view from out their windows and will be able to see above the 15 foot high sculpture.  Town Square is a place where people who work in offices congregate at lunch time.  It also is a very residential area, with high-rise and low rise apartment buildings.

Jackson Pollock said that Modern Art is "nothing more than the contemporary aims of the age we're living in."  In that vein, Dougherty is environmentally aware, as he reuses nature's discarded materials.  Some of his saplings were taken at the site of a new development, Willowford.  When he and his helpers scrounge around for the sources that will become part of the creation, he is relating to our hunting and gathering past.  (See his work on the eco-jardin-culture art blog.  There's another blog I've written on environmental art.)

For over 30 years Patrick Dougherty, who lives in North Carolina has been doing environmental art with sticks as his primary media. An internationally known artist, he has built over 200 site-specific installations throughout the world. Many of these are on view in a photo exhibition at the adjacent GRACE Art Center until July 3.  Simultaneously there is another very interesting exhibition of weed shrines: Patterson Clark: Edicole, which should be the topic of another blog.
This photo and the two directly above it are from Greater Reston Art Center's Facebook page 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Water and Glass in House of Sweden

Ingalena Klenell's glass postcard hangs against the windows of the House of Sweden until May 
What a coincidence to finish writing the last blog -- about window art and glass -- and then receive an invitation to the opening of a glass art exhibition at the beautiful House of Sweden.  Washington's Swedish Embassy is a beautiful building because it celebrates the water, with water flowing down its front entrance.  Also a portion of the building cantilevers over the water.  It's in the eastern part of Georgetown, not quite on the Potomac, but overlooking it. 

A postcard on glass intermingles with reflections
and views of the Potomac, from inside the
House of Sweden, Washington, DC
The display brings together images of the Nordic lands, waters and forests with the flowing panorama of the Potomac River.  The centerpiece of the current showings is Homeland, works of glass by Ingalena Klenell, a noted glass artist from Sweden.  Her work has been shown at Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington and the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis.  However, there's a great advantage to displaying some of the works at the House of Sweden.  A series of large glass postcards are put up against the windows.  We see them as relate to their setting, surrounded by the waters of the Potomac and with openings for the pedestrians to weave in and out of the holes.

Klenell made the postcards from realistic photographs that have been transferred to glass.  The glass windows, though, have holes in them to evoke the fact that memories are incomplete and imperfect.  The artist believes in the importance of connection to place and emphasizes these links.  Therefore, the largest glass installation is a mirrored reflection that evokes the place of display, the rapidly flowing waters of Washington's Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay region.   

Artist Ingalena Klenell is from the province of Varmland, a region of  in the middle of the country that is the focus of the Embassy's current promotion and display.  We see her installation along with displays of regional storytelling, some of the beautiful fabrics of the region, and a historical home celebrating its 250th aniversay.
Table glass to celebrate the 250th birthday of the Baroque
von Echstedtska Manor in Varmland, made by
Ingalena Klenell

Krenell made a table display with gorgeous place settings of glass to celebrate the birthday of the home being referenced, the von Echstedtska Manor, a masterpiece of the Baroque style.  Her precision and attention to detail show in the roses, horses and swans on the table.  She uses a mixture of glass techniques such as hot casting, kiln-forming and kiln casting.

Of her work, Klenell has said that there is a brittleness and a vulnerability of the glass medium.  These qualities combine with light as the source of inspiration and are intimately intertwined with the search of what is central in the human condition.   (Information taken from European Glass Context 2012 website, an exhibit of the best in European glass, in Bornholm)

Centerpiece of the Birthday table celebration
by Klenell at House of Sweden

Certainly Sweden has a rich tradition of beautiful glass.  I think of the wonderful glass products produced by Orrfors and Kosta Boda, which originate in Sweden.  Everywhere in the exhibition, it's clear that Klenell was inspired by her landscape, the tall firs, pines and birch trees but also the snow and the icicles. Her art is at the intersection of folk art, decorative arts, craft  and the avant-garde art of today.

The beauty of icicles especially is difficult to replicate and even the finest of artists struggle to capture the beauty of nature.  Ingalena Klenell succeeds.  I only wish I had seen the huge glass forests that were on display in Tacoma, the Figge Museum in Davenport and Minneapolis.