Friday, October 14, 2011

Kindred Sculptors: Noguchi and the Aran Islanders

Last weekend I took a day to explore a bit more of the neighborhoods of Astoria, Queens, and thanks to a Japanese sculptor, I found myself transported back to the Aran Islands for a few lovely hours.

God, I love New York.

First stop in Astoria: The King of Falafel (it won a Vendy Award for best street food in NYC). Mostly lived up to the hype.

Second stop: Socrates Sculpture Park, where said falafel was consumed while sitting in a field buzzing with dragonflies amongst strange, amorphous sculptures in front of the East River.

Third stop: The Noguchi Gardens and Museum, a museum devoted solely to the work of the Japanese sculptor, Isamu Noguchi, whose 20th Century artwork made me think about -- you guessed it, the Aran Islands.

Noguchi (1904-1988), worked with huge slabs of stone (many different kinds, from basalt to marble). He didn't shape them into recognizable forms, but would work for a few months to a year or more on one piece, getting to know the stone by the process of slicing, chipping, hammering, polishing, to reveal all the stone's qualities.

The Garden

I believe this was a basalt sculpture. I liked the rock's natural color variation.
Stone Fountain
I'm not sure what kind of stone this was, but I liked how the outside was raw, and that even though he carved out a smooth chunk on the inside, he marred it. It reminded me of the rocks on Aran, and how the elements would always play a role in shaping the stones on the island, and the land itself. The Aran Islanders, of course, shaped the land as well by cutting up the stone to make farmland. They effectively created their landscape. I wonder if Noguchi would have seen the Aran Islands as a work of art.

(Or, if the islanders would have thought Noguchi was nuts for spending time playing around with rocks instead of farming).

Limestone cliffs on Inishmore, near the Black Fort, eroding
Crikes and glints in limestone in Inishmaan

The Wormhole, Inishmore

I feel like Noguchi would have gone crazy over the Wormhole. Look at all that color variation!

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