An Architect’s Dream

Pipilotti Rist, “Sparking of the Domesticated Synapses,” 2010 This is a tribute to the unseen work of servants in an affluent residence. Projected onto the vase is a film of hands washing, cutting, and arranging the fresh flowers, giving all of the objects on the shelf a specific history.

If you know anything about my work, you know I spend a lot of time thinking about the meaning of objects. That’s why I made a special point to see a show called “An Architect’s Dream” at the Curator’s Office, a gallery in Northwest Washington D.C. while I was in town. The central idea is the shelf and the objects it may hold, beginning with one of Joseph Cornell’s Celestial Navigation assemblages. Read my review of the show on the Pink Line Project arts and culture blog here.

The works in the show reveal how the meaning of objects can fall along a spectrum. At one end, the object exists in its own right and may refer to its own story and the story of the hands that made and touched it. On the other end, objects can carry with them an assigned, symbolic meaning – either a vague feeling or a specific message.

This has me thinking about the implications of objects in my own work. Often I meditate on objects with very rich histories, of which I know many details. Others are objects umoored from their histories but which give me a feeling of where they may have been or who may have touched them. For me, marbles are the most symbolic objects. It all has me thinking of how I can continue to create complex narratives using variously-gaged meanings in the future.

Joseph Cornell, “Untitled (Celestial Navigation),” 1958. I love the mystical quality of Cornell’s assemblage boxes. He created them from various found objects and Victorian ephemera. Often they refer to certain myths or literary sources and, most of the time, he uses a sense of nostalgia to create a mood or feeling.
Rashid Johnson, “Run, Archie, Run (Detail),” 2012. The oyster shell is a specific reference to a quote by Zora Neale Hurston and appears often in Johnson’s work.
Heather McCaw, “Pour,” Oil and Gold Leaf on Canvas, 30 x 40 in.  Above is a piece that I created a couple of years ago. All the objects in it have specific meanings for me and, through their arrangement, I meant to convey a sense of upheaval and transformation. “Pour” is also an elegy to my previous marriage.

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