Ghosts and Artisans

Kriston on December 9, 2005

Wendell Castle, Ghost Clock, 1985

When art touches and powerfully shapes someone’s life, it always makes for a good story. But it’s not often that one hears such testimony about work made as recently as 1985.  We’re happy our Renwick Gallery could be the conduit.

In the Washington Post, Marc Fisher surveys the Covenant House Washington Artisans Woodshop, a charity that teaches homeless young people fine woodworking skills and basic business instincts.

Artisans has expanded [Sharvona] Harper’s world: [Artisans executive Matt] Barinholtz took the class to the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery, where they saw Wendell Castle’s Ghost Clock. "It’s this grandfather clock all wrapped in a white sheet, and then you get close and you see it’s all carved mahogany," Harper says. "It was wild.

"Man, if they had this back when I was in school, I don’t know what I could have been. I’m even turning my homies down. They say, ‘You staying out tonight?’ and I’m, ‘No, man, I got to go to work.’" Now, she shocks herself by getting up at 6 each morning to get to work; last month, she started a job with a contractor.

Nice story. And it illustrates a known fact of the universe: The young people, they love the trompe l’oeil. (Look as closely as you like, but Ghost Clock is bleached mahogany, solid through and through.) If you have a bored, above-it-all teenager, put him or her in front of the Castle piece in the Renwick. Or a Kaz Oshiro. You’ll be rewarded with at least 15 angst-free minutes.