Though Maryland sculptor Jim Sanborn’s monumental landscape-incorporating public art might be most talked about due to its cryptic nature, its striking appearance and natural integration into what would otherwise be mundane outdoor spaces gives his work a resonance with the viewer that reaches far deeper than the word-of-mouth murmurs might lead you to expect. Combining industrial-scale fabricated sheets of metal such as copper or bronze and the monolithic landscapes of concrete and stone courtyards and building facades with natural elements such as boulders and running water, Sanborn’s public art is a potent lesson in the oft-missed opportunity to bridge the gap between the modern, manufactured world of civilization with the ancient and untamed wilderness.
The Cyrllic Projector
Perhaps what separates humanity most obviously from nature is written language. It allows us to communicate across vast spaces as well as make records so that whatever it is we might have to say can be discovered by future generations. Sanborn’s public work capitalizes on the power of the written word to use it as the glue that binds together the artificial and natural elements of his sculpture. Carved through the metal sheets and into the face of the surrounding surfaces, sunlight by day and internal projectors by night cause Sanborn’s text to wash over elements both natural and man-made, unifying them. Sanborn’s writings include languages both ancient and modern and, in the case of his most famous work, Kryptos, encoded meaning that might not reveal itself for centuries.
While Sanborn’s public works famously make use of the languages of humanity, his indoor installations tend to focus on the languages of the natural world as discovered by physicists. Works like Terrestrial Physics combine the aesthetic principles of sculpture with the functionality of scientific apparatus, in this case a reproduction of the Van de Graaf generators used by American scientists to confirm the possibility of nuclear fission, a series of events that kicked off the Manhattan Project and the advent of functional nuclear reactions. Like his outdoor sculpture, works like Terrestrial Physics put the relationships between humanity, nature and the passage of time and history on full display. Whether blurring the lines between sculpture and monumental document or between art and physics, Sanborn’s work is sure to catch the eyes and imaginations of both the aesthetically hungry and the intellectually curious for millennia to come.
Flora of all sorts have long been the subjects of artists, from traditional still life paintings of vased flowers on tabletops to documentary-style landscape photographs of the untamed wilderness of the forest. A common thread in much of these pieces is that the subject is the plant. We are meant to appreciate the stunning beauty of the whole flower or the majesty of nature of the sort you might read about in a Faulkner story or see in a Hudson River School painting.
Angie Seckinger eschews the representational in her macroscopic plant photography, instead using the plants as a source of color and texture that wrings pure emotion from the viewer. By putting the minute details of the plant into sharp focus and preventing the viewer from seeing the subject in any sort of context (the backgrounds of the images are obscured by the haze of being extremely out of focus), the result isn’t so much a “picture of a plant” but rather a snapshot of detail nested within a swath of color.
Angie describes her photographic process as “exploratory,” probing the plant life around her home with her macro-lens equipped digital camera until a particular combination of shape, color and contrast strikes her fancy. We think her work closes the book on any argument about the ability of photography to work as a truly creative artistic tool, as there is little in common between Angie’s photographs and our own ability to experience nature.
Because of the extraordinary sharpness of the foreground and the wonderful abstraction of the out-of-focus background, Angie’s work holds up brilliantly when blown up into very large image sizes, including mural-sized pieces. Check out our posting about our Kaiser Permanente installation for an example of how stunning Angie’s work can be on this scale.
When time or proximity allow, we are lucky enough to make studio visits, which allow us to go “behind the scenes” and assess the quality and craftsmanship invested into each piece of art. Sometimes we wish we could share this experience with our clients because it often gives a whole new perspective and appreciation for the final product. Well, today you are lucky enough to get a peek at one artist’s studio, Peter Kitchell, who just finished these pieces for one of our projects (stay tuned for a separate post with more project photos).
Artists Francie Hester in her studio.
Francie Hester is a name now familiar to Artists Circle; we’ve recently installed her artwork at The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), the lobby of One Dulles Corridor, and a “big 4 accounting firm.” For ASHA, Hester created a monumental scale, acrylic on aluminum panel piece highlighting the phases of life and development of communication during those phases. The artist is currently experimenting with different materials to create a book explaining her work to ASHA staff and visitors. In the lobby of One Dulles Corridor, Hester created a piece with openings cut in her panel, emphasizing the piece’s imagined vanishing point and revealing the wall behind. For the full article >