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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Visiting Artist: Elizabeth King

I attended Elizabeth King’s lecture “The CoExistence of Substance and Spirit,” and agree that it is always an enlightening experience to listen to an artist speak about her work. I had first seen her exhibit at the Visual Arts Center on Main Street last summer, and instantly became a fan of the intricacy and precision involved in her craft. She has produced stop-motion films with her automatons, giving them unreal humanistic qualities. She has been the only research professor in the School of the Arts at the Smithsonian and has work in the permanent collections of the Hirshhorn Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and more. She had a very technical approach in discussing abstract topics, organizing them into micro-lectures and humorously stating the approximate length in minutes that each topic would be. While listening to “The Ministry of Inside Things,” she displayed photographs of a bronze head that accurately resembled her own (most of her sculptures are in the likeness of herself, mother and grandmother). She described the work as a portrait of a verb, which very much could be, addressing the “attention’s loop” that occurs between eye, brain, and body. “I draw a thing if I can’t possess it any other way.” She was well versed in the science of feeling, and her ability in acknowledging the presence of intangible things seemed to vanish any doubts that her creations had possessed a life of their own. “Eye and Hand” addressed the difficulty in attempting to do two things at once, and the phenomenon it yields. Sculpture and mechanism, thing and being: the dichotomies that exist and assist in creating her two definitions of self. I believe the inclination to generate ambiguity and interplay was successful in her stop-motion footage of automatons; their movements were seamless and fluid, contradicting the mechanical aesthetic they held. With many humans subject to falling under some sort of routine (working, eating, sleeping) it made me question: what is it about us that is not machine?

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