An Appreciation for the Extraordinary

Posted on December 2nd, 2013 by Katie Faulkner

Posted under: Things We Like

On the heels of our current exhibit, “Makers in the Making”, I have been preoccupied by the difference between concept and action.  Dozens of times during the week I am struck by small ideas: a chair refurbishment, a fantastic tree house, a mobile kitchen island, a rock garden. These are concepts that could be enacted upon, and even completed within the space of a weekend, yet they never get done. Things get in front of them, or they are written on a sketchbook page and soon forgotten.

Fortunately there are those who are driven to make.  Dedee Shattuck opened an eponymous gallery in Westport, MA a few years ago. It is a lovely, peaceful architecture, situated at the edge of a wooded area  Click here to go to the gallery website. I make an effort to visit each season, less for the art (which is generally excellent) than for the calming effect of the space which is an oasis after a few days with the extended family. The gallery is directly behind a wonderful shop/cafe, and usually I can leave the kids with my parents and steal a few minutes with the paintings and objects currently on exhibit. But this time the boys were with me and the moment we entered, I knew it was a mistake.  Now they are old enough not to break or damage, but “WHO would pay FIVE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS for THIS??!” came through loud and clear, thanks to the excellent acoustics. Dedee graciously suggested my children might prefer to run around in the wooded sculpture garden, which turned out to be the sanity saving activity of the day.

“Art in the Environment,” is an exhibition of work by faculty and graduate students from the College of Visual and Performing Arts at UMass Dartmouth. The setting is a winding path through a forest, where moss is still electric green among the brown leaves, and you cannot see the art until you happen upon it.  It is surprising to discover “Fall” by Russell Prigodich, an enormous leaf hovering in the air with no obvious means of support, and “Green Men” by  Ellen Lewis Watson, two hollow jackets floating without heads – a little bit “Blair Witch Trial” and a little bit Ichabod Crane, but somehow beautiful.  On your way out, you might miss Rob Greene’s “Down and Out” leaning against a boulder. It is a huge sad head made of sticks.

The strength to fully execute an idea is something to admire, and I suspect that architects can appreciate this as well as anyone.  Time and Money often seek to deny what was intended—and perhaps the bigger the idea, the more vulnerable it is to compromise.  Yet in spite of it all, some things make it through.  Enough people believed in an ICA, Community Rowing, Genzyme Center, and Hancock Tower to enable something remarkable to be built. And it is worth remembering that each time we consider renovation and/or development; it is easier to make something unremarkable, or to make nothing at all.  So within that context, I am grateful for those who would create beauty and provocation in a quiet back yard, for only a small audience to discover. And I ask myself if, as an architect, I am doing all that I



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