Thursday, May 16, 2013

In the Trees

Matthew Geller’s new sculpture, Anticipator, will combine bionic metal limbs with a tree from the Museum grounds. When snow was still falling (and falling) this winter, Facilities Manager Ted Gaffney and I considered the options with a tour of the grounds.

The Museum maintains an inventory of the trees
on our property, with notes about their health, care, and future management. Using the inventory, Ted and I identified several trees that are dead, and thus slated for removal at some point. We then sent a list of the trees along with pictures of each possibility to the artist. Matthew Geller needed a tree with a circumference that would allow it to support the metal limbs of his sculpture, but also one that would not be too thick or unstable when lying on its side.

The winner was star magnolia originally planted by Florence Griswold. It stood between her house and the Lyme Art Association. The tree recently died, perhaps due to damage from the sapsuckers that have made rows of small holes in the bark.
Star Magnolia planted by Miss Florence

Damaged bark

Although we regretted that the tree could not be saved, we liked the fact that a tree selected by Miss Florence could find new life in an artwork on a different part of her property. We think Miss Florence would have been delighted to see her tree incorporated into the sculpture, which will resemble an exotic hybrid not unlike the unusual plantings she sought out for placement on the grounds around her home.

In March, Geller came to asses the tree and make plans for how it should be cut to prepare it for his sculpture. Some limbs would need to be removed so that the trunk would lay flat on the ground. He also marked out an area near the river as the site for the sculpture.
Matthew Geller (left) evaluating the magnolia

Marking out the site of the final sculpture with flags and string

In late April, Lomas Tree Service came to cut the tree, with Museum staff and artist Matthew Geller looking on. Although they would normally cut the tree into pieces, they had to figure out how to fell the tree in one piece so that it would stay intact for use in the sculpture.
Removing unnecessary limbs
We held our breaths as the tree came down, and although some of the more rotten portions did crack off, the trunk survived its trip down to the ground.

After the fall

Lomas then used a crane to lift the tree into a truck, which drove it to our site for the sculpture. The trunk was gently lowered into place on the lawn near Marshfield, overlooking the Lieutenant River. In its current position, the misting branches will provide a screen through which to see the river—such a beloved motif for the Lyme Art Colony painters—in a new light.

Placing the tree on the lawn near the river

The trunk of Miss Florence’s magnolia has been resting in place, waiting for the arrival of its new bionic limbs from the foundry later this week. Matthew Geller will begin fitting the two together this weekend, the first step in bringing Anticipator to life!

Amy Kurtz Lansing

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Anticipating Anticipator by Matthew Geller

As part of the Florence Griswold Museum’s Agora Project—an initiative funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services to make our grounds and gardens a community gathering place—we have commissioned a new, temporary outdoor sculpture. A noted sculptor in the field of public art, Matthew Geller has designed Anticipator, a work for the Museum grounds that combines a recycled tree trunk with three “bionic” limbs forged from Cor-ten steel. These perforated branches will emit colored light and mist through oversized flower “blossoms.” Playful, accessible, and unexpected, the sculpture offers elements of surprise that will encourage visitors to interact with it and each other, fostering a sense of community as they stroll the grounds. Anticipator will shape its environment in an almost animate way, introducing the elements of mist and light and eliciting feedback in return.
Woozy Blossom
Woozy Blossom (Platanus nebulosus), 2010.
 Katonah Museum of Art
Geller often incorporates mist into his works as a means of sparking conversation among viewers by subtly changing their surroundings. At FGM, the mist will transform the environment, influencing how visitors perceive light and air against the backdrop of the Lieutenant River, a subject of interest to the generations of artists who have painted in and around the Florence Griswold House. The sculpture’s futuristic combination of natural and artificial forms will play off our historic site—the tree trunk has been salvaged from the grounds and the exotic blooms recall Miss Florence’s interest in non-native species, many of which she planted around her house. A new biomechanical hybrid that is part plant and part machine, Anticipator will shape its environment in an almost animate way, introducing the elements of mist and light and eliciting feedback in return.

Anticipator arrives on June 8, with a day of fun family activities. Until then, check our website and Facebook for additional posts about the progress of the Anticipator project!

For more of Matthew Geller's work, check out his website:

Amy Kurtz Lansing
Florence Griswold Museum