Below is the artist’s statement I wrote for an upcoming exhibition at Matzke Fine Art Gallery and Sculpture Park, which runs from September 28th – November 10th, 2013. We just studied Freud late this summer, and interestingly enough, even though I was already familiar with the concepts that I mention in the statement, reading Freud gave me the confidence and vocabulary to state my ideas more explicitly and clearly. Thanks to Lorena Morales, my fellow IDSVA student, who pointed out my rather Kantian inclination regarding subjective experience. We just studied Kant, but I was oblivious to how much I had assimilated his ideas.
Hjortspring Boat with a detail image, above. “Weia! Waga!” and Dowager, with a detail image, below.
Private Experience in the Public Realm
The undercurrent of our human existence is that as individuals you and I have private, subjective experiences, even when we are in public. We walk around with our private thoughts, not necessarily oblivious to the world, of course; we can be quite engaged with people and things around us, yet we are still experiencing reality from an individual perspective. How does personal experience remain subjective, yet be obviously affected by that which is universal—those very things that define us and from which no one is exempt—such as life and death?
Sigmund Freud thought that living things have both a life-instinct and a death-instinct, called Eros and Thanatos. That is, we have a desire for growth and regeneration, but also a wish to return to nothingness. It is a very provocative idea, and I can now see that it pervades the sculptural installations that I have in this exhibition.
Much of the inspiration for this work came from my visit to Europe in the summer of 2010. I saw the extant Viking ships in Oslo, Norway, and in Roskilde, Denmark. I also saw the pre-Viking Hjortspring Boat in Copenhagen (it is a much larger version of my Hjortspring Boat here in the gallery). The Oslo ships were actual tombs and interred human remains, although one really has no sense of that when seeing them in person. Perhaps because of that disconnect, and because I also saw the lavish tombs of the Danish monarchs at Roskilde Cathedral, I felt compelled to create work that crossed a gulf between life and death.
My Hjortspring Boat is an homage to those Danish tombs and their uninhibited celebration of continuity and power; it is simultaneously a kind of cradle, swaying gently, and funeral bier. I collected the flowers from a cemetery dumpster, like a grave-robber. The flower-corpse was initially made for the lace boat, but it did not seem quite right there. So, I made the Hjortspring Boat specifically to fit it.
The title “Weia! Waga!” and Dowager is meant to signify this combination of life and death, or love and death, with the lace alluding to seduction or widowhood. “Weia! Waga!” are the first two words of Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingold. Some consider them to be a kind of German baby-talk, and they are often left untranslated into English. The next words in the opera are “Woge, du Welle.” (“Awaken, you waves.”). No matter the exact translation, it was Wagner’s representation of the birth of speech or sentience itself. Like Wagner, I want to show the relation of beginnings to endings.
A vessel form is an evocative symbol. One could see the levitating vessel form as a metaphor for our precarious state as living beings, or as a kind of coffin in which we will be interred. Yet I would like to avoid easy metaphors, and instead create an environment for you to have your own experiences. And, in spite of the serious subject matter, I hope the sense of pleasure with which I created this work is also apparent.