I turn my bowls for appearance and artistic expression more than for utilitarian function. This may be a controversial approach among woodworkers, although it is in accord with artists and sculptors who accept a work for itself and for its utility.... Its function is to display the beauty of nature and to reflect the harmony of man. It is wrong to ask the spalted bowl to function as a workhorse as well.... The bowl is already full. It contains itself and the space between its walls.
- Mark Lindquist, 1977
In the early 1970s, Lindquist and his father, Melvin Lindquist, popularized the use of "spalted" (partially decomposed) wood that is characterized by intricate patterns of brown and black lines. Mark was also instrumental in the introduction of the aesthetics of Oriental ceramics into contemporary wood-turning. Through his essays and book, Sculpting Wood: Contemporary Tools and Techniques, Lindquist shared his philosophy and innovative turning methods, inspiring students to take advantage of the natural aesthetics of wood, rather than striving for the perfection of form and highly polished finishes of traditional lathe-turned bowls. The exhibition at the Renwick Gallery contains examples of Lindquist's work over the past 26 years, from his early turned bowls to his current, large sculptures. "In my recent sculpture series, I emulate the process and philosophy of ninth-century Japanese Buddhist sculptors," said Lindquist, a resident of Florida. "I placed these ideas in a 20th-century context by utilizing, in addition to primitive techniques, the most advanced woodworking technology available."
A column of joined pieces of walnut, pecan and elm greets visitors to "Mark Lindquist: Revolutions in Wood." Silent Witness #1: Oppenheimer is a monumental reference to Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb. "The 7-foot wood giant represents the horror of the nuclear holocaust while strangely resembling a tree of life," says guest curator and exhibition catalog author Robert Hobbs, who holds the Rhoda Thalhimer Endowed Chair of American Art at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Evolutionary Bowl (Proto-Captive), according to Hobbs, is in the tradition of Michelangelo's series of seemingly unfinished "slaves" chiseled from marble for the tomb of Julius II in Rome. To focus our attention on the formative process, Lindquist turned a bowl shape and centered it in a square block of ragged spalted maple, making the bowl look as if it is struggling to emerge and escape.
Other forms express lighter themes. The early Go Paul-Go, a turned, carved vase and top of butternut wood, reveals a more free-wheeling attitude that is also present in Lindquist's later works through his process of turning and carving with a chain saw. The joined vessel honors the wood carvings of Paul Gauguin with boldly carved rolling waves and a fluted border. The Great American Chestnut Burl Bowl celebrates survival; it was carved from a burl on a tree that died as a result of the devastating chestnut blight of 1904. Lindquist turned the bowl from the salvaged piece of chestnut taken from the bank of a stream where it had rested for nearly 50 years.
This exhibition was organized by the Hand Workshop Art Center, Richmond, Va., and was made possible through the generous support of Arthur and Jane Mason, and the Eric and Jeanette Lipman Foundation, and Cadmus Communications Corporation.