Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Heat Drove Me to Flights of Fancy

On any given beautiful day, I can happily spend hours in a museum.

So on a god-forsaken hot and humid day, I can think of no better place to spend some time than taking in a new exhibit.

And what cooler place is there than the thick stone walls and leaded windows of the Branch House, which houses the Virginia Center for Architecture?

The new show "Flights of Fancy" looks at the form, function and geometry of fences and staircases. Ho-hum, right?


Artist Kirsten Kindler's fascination with architectural detail led her to explore the wrought iron fences that pepper neighborhoods like my beloved Jackson Ward.

From there, she meticulously cuts out imagery from magazines and assembles architectural collages that suggest the intricate design work or directly uses staircase imagery in a new way.

The "Mirrored Filigree" triptych was three 8' tall works on paper that resembled the wrought iron of the porches I see all around me, but in muted shades of silvery blue, bronze gray and brown.

"Study for Impossible Fence I" was enormous and elaborate. At its center was a square with interlocking lines which could have been inspired by the motif on my own iron fence.

From there, the design mutates with curlicues, bead-like imagery and assorted curvilinear shapes.

"Study for Impossible Fence II" looks like a Victorian chandelier that morphed into adjoining and elaborately flocked wallpaper.

A sculptural piece called "Information Entity" uses hand cut magazine images of film projectors, cameras, monitors, phones, microphones TVs and binoculars, layering imagery over each other.

Standing taller than the viewer, it comes across as communications overload, an apt metaphor for our 21st century lives.

For me, the most striking piece was "Escalator Treehouse" a nearly floor to ceiling work on paper showing a series of stairs and railings going up a multi-branched tree.

A spiral staircase winds itself around the trunk and stairs and railings connect branches and trunk. It is almost Escher-like except that the stairs actually go somewhere.

Another sculptural piece of paper mounted on plastic film, "Balustrade Sphere," is hung a few inches from the wall, allowing shadows to be cast behind it.

At its center is a simple Doric column and the many staircases are supported by a single black footed urn at the bottom.

The delicacy of the cut-outs of staircases and railings must surely require a variety of scissors and the surest of hands.

The strength of the show is how Kindler translates the beauty of three dimensional objects (and heavy ones at that, iron) into the most delicate of two-dimensional images on paper.

Her manipulation of dimension and space is the best kind of mind f*ck. Intellectually, you know it makes no sense, and yet it reads believably.

For those of us who can't cut on a straight line, her ability to cut out, for example, endless minute balustrade openings is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

And cool. It was deliciously cool admiring wrought ironwork and fences from someplace other than the sidewalk on a day like today.


  1. great blog - how long will that exhibit be there Miss Tour Guide?

    how are you feeling these days? Lots of deep breaths?

    find cool places and people who love you, like me

  2. Thanks! It's through October 9th, so plenty of time to check it out.

    Maybe sighing more than usual, but otherwise good.

    Your encouragement is appreciated...