Brave New Worlds by Charles Pilkey, Krutch Park, Knoxville, July 2023
As I said in the last article, this year’s crop of sculptures decorating the city has more appeal to me than I’ve felt in the last several years. Any given year offers great works, of course, but this year stands out a bit to me. One artist in particular, Charles Pilkey, captured my imagination and he happens to have two sculptures currently located in Krutch Park. I didn’t know they were both by him (though it is kind of obvious) when I picked them both out of the lineup.
I enjoyed others, as well. “Earth Pod” by Susan Woodford seems destined for its spot fronting the Holston Building and Krutch Park Extension. “Emergence” and “Angles and Ellipses” display enough complexity to be intriguing. “Emergence,” particularly, can bear a bit of analysis. Unfortunately, it is also difficult to photograph clearly against the dark background of the small pond. I did my best, but you need to see it in person to fully appreciate it.
“#127,” with it’s bands forming different geometric shapes when shifting perspective, calls for a longer gander than it might first seem. “A Refusal to Stop and Ask Directions” wins the best title, hands down. I hope it doesn’t lead to arguments like its title often does in real life. What’s the connection? Maybe there are so many ways we could go with all the curving shapes? Maybe the idea that the party in question, by refusing to ask directions is going to get all tangled up over the issue? I’m not sure. See what you think.
The two works I most appreciated (at least on my first encounter), are “Brave New Worlds” and “Amrita Devi” both, as I mentioned, by Charles Pilkey. There’s a complexity to each which cannot be captured by a single photo (that’s why there are several here) or a quick walk-by. Is “Brave New Worlds” about modern science and cloning that could produce people with animal heads (or even a revolver!)? Is it simply about how humans have permanently altered the planet? Have these humans and humanoids been forced to move to another world (the second orb in the piece)? Is the mutated male with bat wings escaping it and will he die like Icarus?
There are more clues as to what is happening in “Amrita Devi.” It starts with the name. According to my in-depth research on the Internet (first hit on a search), “Amrita Devi (Beniwal) sacrificed her life along with her three daughters viz. Asu, Ratni and Bhagu in year 1730 to save green trees being felled by the Maharaja of Jodhpur at a place known as Khejarli in Marwar, Rajasthan. Along with her more than 363 other Bishnois, died saving the Khejri trees.” (Link and more info here.)
This makes sense when looking at the sculpture. From a distance it looks like a metal circle and, if you catch it from the right angle, you can spot a protrusion extending from the top of the circle. Closer, you realize that the circle is made of the roots of the tree, which is what extends upward. Even closer inspection reveals humans hugging the tree with a lone female standing with arms outstretched.
Each of them made (and will continue to make) me think and react emotionally to the subject matter. Isn’t that what art does at its best?