Yesterday I visited Dia Beacon. If you have not been there, then I highly recommend it. There is much to see in terms of the work in the galleries but also the manner in which the work is installed is very beautiful and well considered. It is kind of perfect. Also, they have very good coffee and pastries in the cafe, if you find yourself a bit peckish after all that art absorption.
The point of this blog post, however, isn't to be a commercial for Dia Beacon but to talk about space and taking up space. In the two largest galleries as one enters, there is a piece by Walter De Maria based on the I Ching. As I walked past it for the second time, I thought to myself how remarkable it was that he made this piece, which is so large and takes up so much space but is so incredibly mediocre.
It called to mind a conversation that I had had a few days prior with a friend about men and how they occupy space easily and without apology. Call it male privilege or even manspreading but there it was in art form courtesy of Mr. De Maria. The thing is, I have dreams of occupying this much space. I even have an ongoing game with myself where I think about what I would do if MassMOCA called and asked me to make something for one of their huge galleries. I can feel it and I can almost see it - whatever it would be. I want to occupy that much space. I crave it. Almost.
The conversation reminded me of having a studio visit with an artist when I did a residency at the Vermont Studio Center way back in 1995. Sadly, I forget the artist's name but she pointed out that all of the women artists had organized their studio spaces based on how they found them - in other words, they (we) had adjusted our needs to the space even when it meant working was more difficult and inconvenient. All the of male artists had shifted the space to suit their needs - moved tables and otherwise changed their environment so that it best suited their working habits. As I looked around, I realized she was completely correct and I thought of all the times that I played a game of Twister to accommodate my materials and my working surface...as if that was normal or even necessary. It was heartbreaking.
In a way, all my site specific work was about that notion of adjusting or accommodating to a space as I found it. Now I am not so keen to accommodate - in my art or elsewhere in my life. When I told my friend who was visiting Dia Beacon with me about my thoughts about De Maria's artwork, he encouraged me to think more about that reaction and what it said about my own work and working process. When I look closer, I feel something akin to a young girl's yearning for the elusive something larger than herself. It is Dorothea in Middlemarch. Is it really that old in me - this longing? And do I dare to finally answer its call?