Back on February 2, artist Kim Bernard of North Berwick, Maine, noted on her blog that seeing Alexander Calder’s Circus at the Whitney Museum of Art was a highlight of her recent trip to New York City.
“I could see this every day and never grow tired of it, especially the video and Calder ‘performing’ his creations.”
For those of you unfamiliar with Cirque Calder, it is a fanciful little toy circus of wire, string, rubber, cloth, and found objects that Calder (1898-1976), a sculptor world famous for his abstract mobiles, fashioned and fabricated between 1926 and 1931 and had fun with the rest of his life.
It’s not surprising that Kim Bernard should be fond of Calder as her own sculpture owes a debt of gratitude to his for establishing the fact that serious art can be playful and fun. Bernard herself seems to be having a lot of fun with her work these days, her bobbing and weaving kinetic sculpture of orange encaustic droplets having been featured prominently at the 2011 Portland Museum of Art Biennial.
Bernard was also the recipient of the 2011 Piscataqua Region Artist Advancement Grant, a cash award of between $15,000 and $25,000 that Bernard plans to use to, among other things, take a physics course and work on interactive kinetic sculpture.
“My present projects,” writes Bernard, “investigate the intersection where the hard and fast science of physics collides with sublime spirituality, playfulness and a pinch of humor. This quest for the magical moment where awe is directed at subjects more powerful than the objects and the ‘aha moment’ happens in the hands rather than the grey matter. These recent kinetic works invite the viewer to engage the sculptures’ motion, as an extension one’s own energy, and break the no-touch rule of art.”
You simply cannot understand a work of sculpture if you can’t touch it, so the opportunity to play with Kim Bernard’s sculpture at the Boston Sculptors Gallery (through March 11) is most welcome. Bernard’s creations, set in motion by hand, blur the line between work and play, science and art, object and action, visual art and dance.
Boston Sculptors Gallery, established in 1992, is an artist cooperative that regularly features two members at a time. Kim Bernard is paired up with Boston sculptor Liz Shepherd in what might be thought of as an exhibition of two artists in search of transcendence.
Shepherd’s work, which I have only seen in reproduction, reminds me bit of Jonathan Borofsky’s plastic figure silhouettes, though Shepherd casts little resin ladders and chairs that she installs in ways that play with perception as well as the gulf between art and kitsch.
“I am using ladders and stairs as symbols of letting go of attachments and cravings,” writes Shepherd. “As archetypes, they are long standing symbols of a bridge between earth and heaven, but even in our day to day lives they embody our desire to succeed and our fear of failure.”
Both artists create toys with a serious intent, a commendable endeavor in this age of high seriousness.
[Boston Sculptors Gallery, 486 Harrison Ave., Boston MA, 617-482-7781.]