Yesterday in this space, I saluted my brother and sister-in-law on the occasion of their 48th anniversary. They enjoyed an anniversary getaway in a town near us and because they were nearby, that allowed us to meet for lunch. Since they are both talented artists, we settled on the perfect meeting place, the spectacular Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
When I say this is the perfect lunch outing, I’m not kidding. Lunch at the museum was delightful and a splendid first course (if you will) before the entrée – feasting on world-class artwork in gallery after gallery. There’s never enough time to relish it all, but the atmosphere (and menu, if I may continue with the food metaphor) invites one back for follow-up visits.
Today, my curiosity and imagination were drawn to what I thought was an unusual exhibit. It’s categorized as sculpture with eight elements presented in solid cast plastic and aluminum. The work was created by Roni Horn and is titled When Emily Dickinson Shut Her Eyes No. 859: A Doubt If It Be Us. Certainly, the title drew me in. I hadn’t expected to find poetry in a visually-focused museum. Secondly, I was curious about the unique lettered forms that compose the sculpture.
When I came home, I began to investigate. It’s a fascinating story! The artist has been interested in Dickinson’s letters and poetry, particularly the poet’s lifelong voluntary seclusion. Horn offers insight about her affinity with Dickinson here and I appreciated the way the artist contrasts herself to the poet … while noting their similar creative drive.
I also discovered the Crystal Bridges display is only one of several in the When Emily Dickinson Shut Her Eyes series. Here’s one (1259) and here’s another (886). Each numbered piece, as I quickly determined, matches one of Dickinson’s poems and the individual poles of the sculpture correspond to a line of the numbered poem. For instance, the sculpture pictured above has eight individual poles. The Dickinson poem #859 is composed of eight lines (see below) that correspond to Horn’s piece above.Now it should be pointed out that in the image of the Horn piece above, the fifth and eighth poles (left to right) aren’t legible, looking more like lines of a UPC code. If you take a close look at the seventh pole (again left to right), you can see the letters aren’t just on the area facing out; back and front, they’re letters but right side and left side, the letters become lines. (I hope my description makes sense!)
For a clearer understanding, there are more pictures of her productions here. A few of the larger images allow a look at the poles from a turned angle that shows front and side. However, if you want an enlarged image, you’ll have to sign in for an account (free). You might also find the estimated sales prices enlightening.
I confess I’m not an art connoisseur, so readers of this blog may know more about Horn’s creations than I do. (I’m not afraid to plead ignorance when it’s appropriate.) But I found Horn’s works a fun and creative way to meld the two artistic expressions – visual and poetic art – in a unique manner! I’m glad I didn’t simply walk by the exhibit because it didn’t fit my expectation of what one might consider “art.“