Look quickly and you might miss Portals, a new, site-specific installation by Sandra Muss subtly situated along the entrance path of the Kreeger Museum’s recently-opened garden expansion. Located at the confluence of open grass and forested glen, Portals serves as a gateway of sorts, marking not only a shift in topography but a transition in mental acuity as well.
The seven monolithic forms that make up the work are arranged seemingly haphazardly on either side of the trail, encroaching gently upon you as you make your way down the path. The steel forms are encased in a wire mesh framework that provides structure for local vines, such as Virginia Creeper, to grow skyward. Polished to a mirrored sheen, the silent sentinels reflect and refract the surrounding environment. The circular mesh surrounding the rectangular forms fools the eye, creating the impression that the forms are composed of many sides. Blurring the lines between the natural and the manmade, the sentinels take on a life of their own, a notion reinforced by one form positioned horizontally, mimicking a decaying tree trunk. Existing symbiotically with nature but wholly inorganic, they act as a bridge between the visual landscape and the realm of the spiritual.
The museum’s press release compares the work to the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles that transports the viewer to a magical realm. The comparison is apt with regard to the way in which the mind feels transported, but make no mistake—you are not traveling to mystical lands. Rather, Muss calls upon you to travel inwardly, activating your senses in new ways as you experience nature reflected back at you. A similar visual experience occurs indoors when viewing the Cubist and Impressionist paintings, but here Muss pulls in all our senses, creating an intimate connection with the work. As you walk around the pillars activating their artistic energy, your senses of sound, smell and touch are also activated.
Sit on the horizontal monolith (really, its encouraged!) and allow yourself to feel the wind rustling through the trees and hear birdcalls in a whole new light. Your simple presence is all it takes to unleash the forms’ artistic spirit; as you shift your body and gaze the work reverberates visual energy back at you. While the Kreeger Museum has other works specifically designed to interact with nature (such as Dalya Luttwak’s nearby “Poison Ivy”) Portals is unique in the way it stirs the natural world around it. As the museum sets its sights on showcasing its expanding outdoor space, Portals will serve as a natural transition from the museum’s modernist architecture to the quietude of the forest.
For more information on the Kreeger Museum visit their website here.