“The architecture takes it a step further, it is the container that holds how that motion plays out. A great building rarely seems to forget its drawing.” – Kathleen Griffin
Earlier this month, I met with with Rick Bell and Julie Trébault of the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). We talked for a while about Butterflies of Memory, and it brought up issues of both the architecture and drawing of the butterfly. This piece was conceived of over such long period of time, and there are so many day to day technical elements that sometimes the more conceptual and artistic elements can get forgotten. But these points are very important. How the sculpture functions as a drawing – starting and finishing there, how it draws and creates line in the landscape and how its scale pulls us into the drawing.
But I should explain more where I am coming from. In my studio process, I go between drawing and sculpture, primarily. I approach drawing as a conceptual thinking space, focusing on the delicacy of the line employed, the physical materials involved and how the two push and pull on the drawing. The lightness of the material creating a flexibility in the thought, a temporal moment like thought itself. The point of the pencil as the point of the thought, held just barely in position by the placement of that graphite and how it touches the paper.
So drawing then becomes a kind of physical meditation. Drawing and redrawing the butterflies is, for me, thinking them into existence, thinking them into this space. The drawings are all part of that visual meditation.
Also, drawing is an impossible thinking space, unrestricted by anything else. It is captured thought, it is a measurement of it, crystalized. So much more than painting. So much lighter.
Then there is sculpture. If you ask me casually what I do, when I am not thinking too much, I will tell you I am a sculptor. More often than not I say artist, and this is why: all of this thinking and drawing, all this creation of conceptual place, hopefully develops ideas enough that they can come and join us here. We do not go to its place, it comes to us.This poetry in reverse, it is my end point. For my work, that is also about impossibility and wonder, making things that seem impossible, a physical poetry or idea, who lives with us, almost in opposition to the world as it is, demanding more, expanding this space, to hold it. Living in the wonder and impossibility of those pure ideas, feeling unrestrained in those possibility, held for a moment between disbelief and wonder. Where poetry is physical and surrounds us, where we are inside the drawing.
This is what leads to my concern for material and, as often as possible, locking meaning inside that material – to refuse the illusion and transformation of a picture plane, of drawing or specifically painting or television or the computer, but to create something real. A boat that really is filled with 2,500 pounds of candy, butterflies that actually are gold, that do fly above our city.
But in the case of this piece, the piece is so large and so far away, depicting a creature that is in and of itself so temporal, the piece itself will be temporal in that it becomes a drawing again. A butterfly more than perhaps any other creature is so temporal it almost refutes our three dimensions, remaining an idea too, a two dimensional expression. The gold on the butterflies like the gold leaf in the drawings, and it is a drawing in the landscape as well, pulling us into it, a larger drawing of the city. For a moment to look at it will be to be part of that drawing and the 60,000 pounds of steel on the building will be the same as the hard pencil lines that I lay against a ruler. A push-pull and the butterflies are here with us or we are in the drawing with it. It is this vibration that I greatly look forward to. To see if it gets pulled off. To see if it also feels like a drawing just as it seems impossibly real and among us.
I have always read with a great jealousy the work of writers and poets whose work pulls us into the delicacy and place of their words. This will be the first piece I will have made whose scale is large enough to pull the viewer into its reality, and still as sculpture remain in ours. I am very excited about this.
And then the architecture takes it a step further, it is the container that holds how that motion plays out. A great building rarely seems to forget its drawing. And the Ruins are not a random choice, they come with an intense variation of histories. A building that has lived a large and full life. The meanings also change, as those stories play out. The meaning of the building becomes the content or realization of that first drawing and the realities of those stories. This piece works with that architecture, imaging its content both as it is and could be, playing with and altering its story, flipping that relationship of drawing again. They become so many things twisting together it becomes simple again, it functions again, and as that drawing or poetry, we read into its meanings.