Ugh! Look at my messy hair! Windy, windy day in San Francisco that day!
As an artist, part of my job is to observe art by others to learn from, be inspired by and humbled by their work. I will be documenting much of my recent trip to the de Young Museum in San Francisco over time, but today, I want to focus on this piece by Cornelia Parker.
Titled, “Anti-Mass” this sculpture was constructed from the remains of a Southern Black Baptist Church destroyed by arsonists. I was drop-jawed when I saw it….almost moved to tears. The pieces appear to defy gravity, suggesting the temporality of everything physical, even as it captures the spirit of the worshippers.
In the title, the word “mass” refers to both the elemental substance of the universe, as well as the Catholic sacramental ritual, uniting science and religion in a metaphoric insistence on the triumph of creativity over violence. It evokes the lost church and congregation through absence more powerfully than could any figurative image.
I must have sat on the bench in the middle of the room and stared at it for half an hour. Rarely am I as deeply affected by a piece of art as suddenly and as deeply as this. I was very surprised when I saw this artist’s photo, revealing, I suppose, my own (shame-worthy) inner-propensity toward stereotyping. The name Cornelia Parker, coupled with the subject matter of this piece, brought to mind a fierce black woman artist. Little did I expect her to look like this:
Parker studied at the Gloucestershire College of Art and Design (1974–75) and Wolverhampton Polytechnic (1975–78). She received her MFA from Reading University in 1982 and honorary doctorates from the University of Wolverhampton in 2000, the University of Birmingham (2005) and the University of Gloucestershire (2008).
In 1997, Cornelia Parker was shortlisted for the Turner Prize along with Christine Borland, Angela Bulloch, and Gillian Wearing (who won the prize). She is married, has one daughter, and lives and works in London. I want to make art that has this same kind of impact!