Meet the Artist: Timothy Horn from Forces of Nature Renwick Invitational 2020

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  • TIMOTHY HORN: My name is Timothy Horn. I'm here to talk about my work in the exhibition “Forces of Nature” in the “Renwick Invitational 2020” at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

    I grew up in the city of Melbourne in Australia, so originally I went to study sculpture. I worked in a very figurative mode but really kind of found my voice a few years after art school. I became completely obsessed with the baroque. I went back to school to study glass about ten years after that initial degree. I think I had ideas of perhaps becoming like a Venetian glassblower and making exquisite goblets, but I think once I sort of found glass's material, it spoke to me in sort of more of a sculptural scale.

    I have two types of work in this exhibition. There are two works that are made out of sugar, and they were made originally for an exhibition in San Francisco. Talking with the curators of that museum in San Francisco, I learned that the museum was founded with money from a sugar fortune and the patroness of the museum, she'd had a very sort of rags-to-riches transformation in her life, born into near poverty in San Francisco, married one of the richest men in the world. This was at the turn of the 19th century, and so I conceived of making a carriage which symbolized that Cinderella-like transformation.

    The second work for that exhibition was a chandelier, which was a combination of two chandeliers in the museum collection. One was a very sort of classic, refined, 18th-century chandelier, and the other chandelier was 17th-century and much chunkier. It was made out of solid pieces of rock crystal, and so I combined elements from both of those chandeliers and constructed a chandelier again, which was encrusted in crystallized rock sugar.

    The other three works in the exhibition are made of metal and glass, and the silhouettes of those works come from 17th-century patterns of jewelry, which I've blown up and made quite large. I grafted forms of natural species, such as lichen and coral, and created large, wall-sized sculptures using those forms.

    Being part of the “Renwick Invitational” exhibition, it's a great honor for someone who moved here eighteen years ago and went to graduate school, met my partner here, and decided to stay in America.

    The sugar works that I made were very much tied in into that sort of Cinderella story, which has a sort of a personal element for me as a gay man, also. The more recent works that are made from metal and glass were really inspired by a trip back to Australia in 2008 when I visited the Great Barrier Reef and took my partner. It was his first visit to Australia. This work, in a sense, there's something skeletal, precious in a sort of reliquary kind of way, for me with these works. I was completely enthralled as a child, viewing coral and fish, and this time going back as an adult, I had the opportunity to go snorkeling with my partner and, again, kind of rediscover this magical world of corals. We also managed to see while we were there the first series of coral bleachings that were taking place due to climate change. It was a sort of a bittersweet return to Australia at that time to enjoy obviously being there but also to be seeing the reef experiencing stress and duress.

    Timothy Horn, one of four artists featured in the exhibition Forces of Nature: Renwick Invitational 2020, creates exaggerated large-scale adornments that combine the natural and the constructed worlds. He draws inspiration from objects steeped in a rich tradition of decorative arts, science, and history with 17th-century jewelry patterns and 19th-century studies of lichen, coral, and seaweed. He works in traditional mediums, such as bronze and glass, while also employing unconventional ones, like crystallized rock sugar. The works selected for Forces of Nature embody splendor, fragility, and stillness and address the conflicted relationship between humanity and the natural environment, compelling the viewer to reflect upon expectations versus outcomes.

    Forces of Nature: Renwick Invitational 2020 was presented by the Smithsonian American Art Museum at its Renwick Gallery from October 16, 2020, to June 27, 2021. The exhibition features artists Lauren Fensterstock, Timothy Horn, Debora Moore, and Rowland Ricketts. Each of these invited artists looks to nature as a way to contemplate what it means to be human in a world increasingly chaotic and divorced from our physical landscape. Representing craft media from fiber to mosaic to glass and metals, these artists approach the long history of art’s engagement with the natural world through unconventional and highly personal perspectives.

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