Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Feats of Woodworking: Wendell Castle's "Ghost Clock"

I love going to galleries and museums, but it's a rare and amazing thing to truly be stunned by a work of art. When that happens, you never forget it. One of these times was when I stumbled upon John Everett Millais's painting of Ophelia (titled Ophelia, appropriately enough) at the Tate Gallery in London.

Another time was when I saw Wendell Castle's Ghost Clock at the Renwick Gallery in Washinton, DC. I was at the Renwick to see furniture and craft. This was at least ten years ago and I had never heard of Wendell Castle. You can imagine my surprise when I turned a corner and saw this:

At just over seven feet tall, it's a formidable presence in the room. I love grandfather clocks, the older the better, so I was immediately drawn to it. Old grandfather clocks are haunted enough as it is, but one covered with a sheet is particularly captivating. It immediately suggests an abandoned house with its furniture covered in a futile effort to protect it from dust and weather. But the closer you get, the more compelling it is until finally you realize that this isn't a clock covered by a sheet at all. The whole thing, including the sheet, is carved out of mahogany. Castle made it in 1985.

The photograph is used with grateful acknowledgment of the Renwick Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. There is tons of excellent furniture to be seen on their website: americanart.si.edu. You have to search a bit, but it's there. I suggest you go to the collections search page, put 'furniture' in the Keyword box and select 'Crafts' in the Artwork Type dropdown list. You'll see great work by Maloof, Nakashima, Knox Bennett and many other American masters. Of course, you can also go there in person!


R Francis said...

Rene Magritte has a lot to answer for

Alison said...

Wow. Is it still there? I'll have to stick my head in the next time I'm the neighborhood. That's got to be amazing.