Mark Lindquist-Revolutions in Wood, Lia Cook-Material Allusions

Silent Witness #1, Oppenheimer

Silent Witness #1, Oppenheimer
1983
walnut, pecan, elm
85 x 22
collection of Margaret A. Pennington
Photography by Paul Avis

The subject of this sculpture is the tragic figure of Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant physicist who oversaw the development of the atomic bomb. After its successful testing, Oppenheimer repeated a haunting phrase from the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Hindu devotional text: "I am become death." By employing abstract shapes that can connote either the uplifting experience of self-realization through Zen meditation or the horror of nuclear holocaust, Lindquist conflates the symbolic tree of life with the tree of death. The multipart, columnar form includes a base of turned walnut surmounted by a large bell- or torpedo-shaped piece of elm. The ovoid pecan wood section balanced atop the elm can be interpreted ironically---either as a meditation pillow or the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb. Literal meaning is augmented by the deliberate inclusion of elm, a species of tree decimated in the Northeast by disease. The tall form finally culminates in an ascending vessel whose irregular shape suggests a rising flame.


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