Saturday 21 March 2020

Reflections on Glass Furniture in a Pandemic

Lately I've been thinking about fragility. About how we are all connected by caring and how very, very lucky I am to be alive. It feels almost accidental. 

The images above are actually framed photos, side by side, in my home office. They were a gift from our daughter Natalie who is a scholar in design history. She knew instinctively how much I would love these life-size glass sculptures by artist Beth Lipman

When they were on display at the Ringling Museum in Florida, Modern Magazine explained this exhibition this way: 

In a recent installation in the wood-paneled period rooms of the Ringling Museum in Florida, Precarious Possessions: Crib, Cradle and Sideboard with Blue China, Lipman portrays the three stages of life with full-sized glass re-creations of furniture. The crib and cradle represent the beginning and end of life—the cradle modeled on a rocking bed once used by the Shakers to soothe the sick or elderly, protecting them from drafts and bed sores. The artist has cut off the legs and part of the side frame and slats at the footboard end of the crib so that it appears to be sinking into unstable ground. In its simplicity, the unadorned cradle is only one remove from a casket. The elusive quality, the fragility, of the glass and the juxtaposition of the empty pieces remind us that the body is mortal. 

The third piece in the exhibition is a side table adorned with numerous decorative objects - I don't own an image of this piece, but I found this one online.

The Modern review continues:

Perhaps we compensate for this realization by acquiring material objects, but the furnishings are meant to raise the question that Lipman herself asks: “What kind of comfort” does that bring, or “perhaps doesn’t bring us?”

The disorienting new realities of social distance, self-isolation, illness and fear have sent everyone scuttling home. At home, we care, we console, and we embrace. Have our possessions suddenly lost their attraction?

Glass is beautiful, but it is breakable. The crib is sinking into the earth. The adult cradle (an idea that I love!) looks too ethereal to hold human weight. 

Maybe all that truly matters after all is the love and care we have for each other because that is what I think of and remember when I look at these sculptures. Our 'stuff' doesn't matter. What matters is the love we have for each other here and now. That is what stays.

Which reminded me of this passage in one of our family's favourite books, The Velveteen Rabbit

"Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 
'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves 
you for a long, long, not just to play with, but REALLY 
loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always
truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he 
asked, 'or bit by bit?'

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 
'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it
doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or
have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.
Generally by the time you are Real, most of your 
hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and 
you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these 
things don't matter at all, because once you are Real
you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
- Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit

1 comment:

ninente said...

This was heartwarming to read. I found a PDF of the book and will read it. Thank you.