How many times have you heard that expression? I've always found it somewhat befuddling, until I met performance artist, sculptor and professor, Andrew Connelly.
Upside down or right side up, it's all the same. Photo by Matthew Dimakos
When Connelly was invited to participate in Adelphi University's 2004 Outdoor Sculpture Biennial two years ago, he first had to consider the elements. What would be the best material for his work to weather the unpredictable Long Island forces of nature? He chose aluminum. Using aluminum he could produce a brushed surface and at the same time have that sense of permanence, a tenacious quality that sustains over time.
"There are no road maps in creating a work of art; I'm driven by a concept and creating each part as I go," Connelly said. "Pieces grow on me and at a particular point of the contemplative process it becomes natural; then of course there are roadblocks. I ask myself to find a solution. I usually start off with a dumb idea and it's viewed as a cliché. Then I take that cliché twisting, spinning and altering it to where it becomes my own. It takes on another level of sophistication. Just as a screenwriter weaves a story and pulls the audience in to where they lose all sense of themselves, my work is about the viewer becoming a part of the experience."
Working with aluminum was not new for Connelly, but this time he heated it, bending, forming and changing its nature. Because his sculpture was influenced by human scale and must be experienced by the viewer the structure is an overall dimension of 30'L x 15'W x 18'H and supported by six foot beams; weighing in at four-and-a-half thousand pounds, Indifferent Space, beckons the interactive side of its visitors.
Indifferent Space is two entirely different experiences in one structural form. What is different is the cones' orientation. One opens to the sky, the other to the earth. Their beam structures are also different. One being raised above, and the other below.
"You can flip the entire work upside down and it would be the same piece," he said.
Two chambers, two conical forms. The same, but different. Orientation gives them a schism. One as a protective umbrella; the other as an ominous funnel. The real views come underneath the cones and are suspended at over six feet off the ground inviting visitors to the point or to the opening.
"My hope for visitors is that they experience the dual relationship of the cones. The piece shows two very same environments, yet the opposite, the polarity. The yin/yang, one can never have one without the other. Alone, the conical forms would not be the same," Connelly noted. "People become a part of the piece and activate the work itself. I love architecture and architects think about the experience that people have in entering and moving about the space. I view my work in a similar way."
In order to achieve such a substantial work of art, Connelly required assistance from local steelworkers, engineers, mathematicians, a land surveyor and a talented crew of sculpture students. The sheets of aluminum were rolled into torque ellipses and then formed around armatures that were created in order to aid in molding the cones. The creation of the cones took place in his studio in Placerville, California and California State University where Connelly is an assistant professor overseeing the sculpture department. The next challenge was transporting them to Adelphi University in Garden City. He purchased a flat bed trailer, a truck and drove them across the country himself. When asked about his trip, Connelly remarked, "I got some of the strangest looks from folks. My friends in California decided to decorate the cones as if they were two giant Hershey's kisses which created a of lot smiles and questions along the way to NY."
Connelly's Indifferent Space is among 15 sculptures that will be on display, through the fall of 2005, on Adelphi's campus. The opening date of the exhibition is Oct. 17.