Friday, April 27, 2012

Keeping My Distance

VCU represent.

There's something especially satisfying about seeing sculpture created by a graduate of VCU's MFA program at the VMFA.

But there it is in the 21st century gallery, Diana Al-Hadid's "Trace of a Fictional Third."

And, just for the record, I am that third.

Or you could be. Actually, whomever is looking at the piece is the third of the title because the two other figures which form the pyramid are fixed.

We, the viewer, are the variable.

The large-scale piece is arresting, combining both a sense of decay and a sense of the unfinished.

Neither figure has a head. What appears to be the remains of a pyramid, half crumbled away, leads down to what looks like lily pads.

Or perhaps that's just where my mind went given the nearby window and the outside view of the lily pad-laden reflecting pool.

After wandering around the piece for some time, I finally turned to the only other person around so I'd have someone to discuss it with.

"I can't shake the feeling it looks like melting ice cream," he admitted.

Vanilla with chocolate syrup. Yep, I could see that.

A guard entered the room and we included her in our analysis.

"Every time I work this gallery, I see something different in it," she said, moving around it.

At one point, we looked at each other at the same moment and she said what I was thinking. "I would really like to touch it."

We didn't, but the urge was strong. The recognizable elements -spires, human figures, leaves- called to us.

If I could have suggested anything to the artist, it would have been to include a small platform on which the "third" (okay, me) could have reclined to become part of the larger piece.

But absent that, I continued to move around the sculpture, taking in the endless angles and views it offered. There was no "right" way to look at Al-Hadid's work.

But just to be clear, I did not touch it.

This third knew her place.

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