1969, revised 2013
Born: Washington, District of Columbia 1922
Lucite 77 in. (195.6 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the artist
Smithsonian American Art Museum
3rd Floor, North Wing
Luce Center Quote
"What I see and try to capture [in my sculpture] is the movement of beauty. I try to freeze a line of a motion that expresses strength, power, or grace . . . I try to grasp and make permanent something ephemeral." The artist, quoted in Getlein, "A Shaping Hand: An Interview with John Safer, Harvard Business Review (July-August 1984)
John Safer's sculptures reflect his desire "to grasp and make permanent something ephemeral." The title Chandelle, French for candle, offers clues to his original inspiration. Reflections bouncing off the highly polished black Lucite resemble the changing shape of a flickering flame. The title may also come from Safer's knowledge of aviation terms, which became familiar to him while he was in the U.S. Air Force. A "chandelle" is an aircraft maneuver in which a pilot combines a 180-degree turn with a sudden climb. In profile, Chandelle captures the essential lines traced during this maneuver.
Luce Center Label
The French word chandelle means "candle," and this sculpture, although not strictly representational, evokes the form of a flickering flame. As the viewer walks by the piece the changing shape of a flame can be imagined in the reflections of light in the polished black Lucite and through the sculpture's deceptively tapering form. The title of this work may also indicate John Safer's knowledge of aviation gained in the Air Force. A chandelle is an aircraft control maneuver in which the pilot combines a 180-degree turn with a sudden climb. Viewed from the side, Chandelle's form appears to capture the essential movement of this maneuver.