Meet the Artist: Liz Larner on Bird in Space”

  • LIZ LARNER: I made “Bird in Space” about 30 years ago. The sculpture is made mostly of nylon cord – trying to create as much lightness as possible that it kind of appears and disappears. It’s very present at some points, and it just goes away.

    I’m Liz Larner. I’m here at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I didn’t really study sculpture in school; my degree is in photography. So that’s one thing I learned in school was that I didn’t want to take pictures of things. I wanted to make things.

    I wanted “Bird in Space” to be, you know, to refer to Brâncuși’s “Bird in Space.” I mean, it started as the idea but to reinterpret it in a different form with different dependencies and different material. I wanted to have the bird flying in space and taking up a lot of space, but then there’s these two heavy blocks that sort of hold the sculpture itself to the earth, and they are what gives it the tension.

    I wanted my work to sort of reassert, or assert, a female – a feminine – point of view. There’s a term for a woman or a girl as a bird, and so I like the idea of the freedom of a woman or a girl being in space and still dependent, still attached to her surroundings, but I wanted to reinterpret that as well.

    Three decades after creating Bird in SpaceLiz Larner discusses her 1989 work—a sculpture made from nylon, silk, and steel—in reference to Constantin Brâncuși's sculpture of the same name from the 1920s. Finishing what Brâncuși started, Larner's sculpture is an ethereal work whose lines seem to float in space.

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