Photograph by Mark Gilliland

Photograph by Mark Gilliland

Thirty years ago, Jack Hastings was commissioned to design a mobile for a five-story atrium within the new Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) southeast headquarters in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He named the monumental artwork Homage to Calder in honor of the sculptor-engineer, who in 1932 created hanging sculptures of discrete, movable parts powered by the wind.

Homage to Calder is one of the largest and most impressive works of art Jack Hastings designed and constructed. In an article about Hastings’ work in the October 2012 issue of Nashville Arts Magazine, art historian Susan Knowles observed, “Jack’s engineering genius and whimsical imagination are on display in his two sprightly aluminum Dancing on Air mobiles installed at the Nashville International Airport.” Homage to Calder is mammoth compared to these.

Arlyn Ende, Jack Hastings’ life partner, wrote about the installation of Homage to Calder. “I remember the magical, jaw-dropping suspense as we saw the air itself take shape around each moving arm and attenuated icon as it glided upward and outward to the ephemeral airspace. There was a breathtaking silence when the last fitting was tightened and the crew drew back.

I sensed and shared the pride, gratitude, and relief that filled Jack as his Homage to Calder was released, finally on its own.”

TVA has announced plans to renovate their building, so Arlyn Ende hopes to donate Homage to Calder to an institution that can accommodate it and will preserve and protect it. The mobile, featuring colorfully painted aluminum icons, hangs from a 30-foot metal rod and is almost five stories tall.

Parties interested in being considered to receive this large and precious gift should direct inquiries to Hastings’ Art Trustee, Susan Tinney, at susan@tinneycontemporary.com. Continue below to read Arlyn Ende’s recollections of the design, construction, and installation of Homage to Calder.

 

Arlyn Ende’s Recollections on Jack Hastings’ Homage to Calder Mobile

If you had gone looking for sculptor Jack Hastings thirty years ago at his studio and farm in Bradyville, Tennessee, you’d have crossed a creek, climbed a hill, and found him back behind his studio intensely absorbed in an aerodynamic exercise that was somewhere between physics and aesthetics. He would have been at the controls of his antique Oliver tractor, hoisting with slow, deliberate precision a 30-foot long rod, higher and higher, as he calculated and calibrated its swing and balance with a bright orange spiral icon dangling from its end. He’d pause, break concentration, and invite you into his large workroom to show you a scale model of the work-in-progress and explain what was up.

Hastings’ studio, newly hand-built with his life partner Arlyn Ende, was situated on 85 hillside acres shared with their herd of milk goats, a Jersey cow, a horse, a pony, chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and bees, a Rhodesian Ridgeback and two red tabby cats. A breeze carried the soft sounds and earthy scents of country through the oversize open doors of the studio. Inside, you would see artworks in various stages of development in metal, cement and clay, and an array of handmade tools the artist invented for experimenting with mediums and techniques.

He would reveal to you the mystery behind what he was just doing on his tractor. At this same time, down in Chattanooga, the Tennessee Valley Authority was completing its large southeast headquarters, and for the past three months Hastings had been constructing a mobile he had been commissioned to design for a five-story atrium within the new office complex. He named this monumental artwork “Homage to Calder” in honor of the sculptor-engineer who in 1932 created hanging sculptures of discrete movable parts powered by the wind which Marcel Duchamps christened mobiles. A few months after your visit, Hastings’ “Homage” mobile would be complete.

A personal recollection: “One night just prior to the official opening of the new TVA building, Jack and I drove to Chattanooga to deliver and install the mobile. Our truck was filled to capacity with the carefully identified parts Jack had tested so precisely, and with tools and backup parts “just in case.” His well thought out plan was in place to finally assemble the sculpture in its entirety for the first time. A crew had already attached the master cable to the solar glass ceiling high in the 5-story atrium and were there waiting for the main event to begin. Jack laid out the rods, fittings, and colorfully painted aluminum icons systematically on the floor. The cable was lowered. From a balcony four stories up, Jack called out instructions to the crew below to attach, and very slowly, very gently hoist the rods and icons from the floor in the proper order. I remember the magical, jaw- dropping suspense as we saw the air itself take shape around each moving arm and attenuated icon as it glided upward and outward into the ephemeral airspace. There was a breathtaking silence when the last fitting was tightened and the crew drew back. I sensed and shared the pride, gratitude and relief that filled Jack as his “Homage to Calder” was released, finally on its own. “

Jack Hastings, Dancing on Air, 1999, Pair of stainless steel and painted aluminum mobiles, Nashville International Airport concourses

Jack Hastings, Dancing on Air, 1999, Pair of stainless steel and painted aluminum mobiles, Nashville International Airport concourses

Jack Hastings died in 2013. He was an artist of infallible, surprising facets whose vision radiated widely outward, leaving a visible wake behind it. He left a half-century of his art throughout schools, hospitals, parks, museums, office buildings and residences across the U.S., many here in his adopted state of Tennessee, and in Germany.

He had begun his career prepared to paint frescoes, as a student privileged to observe Diego Rivera at work on murals in Mexico. For a young artist, this powerful early experience imparted to Hastings an indelible impression of the relationship between art and architecture which became, and remained, the basis and focus of his life’s work. Throughout his lifetime he also recorded his ideas and developed his point of view in sketchbooks and journals. Jack Hastings’ memoir, The Illuminated History of Darkness: An Intellectual Adventure, includes a collection of his poems. (He called them moemms, as in meditations on enigmatic meanings and messages.) The IHOD was published in 2000 by Cosmic Aye.

In an article about Hastings’ work in the October 2012 issue of Nashville Arts Magazine, art historian Susan Knowles observed “Jack’s engineering genius and whimsical imagination are on display in his two sprightly aluminum Dancing on Air mobiles installed at the Nashville International Airport.” A Chattanooga patron who commissioned Hastings to carve a towering fireplace wall in cement recalls, “I was initially attracted to Jack’s work because of his sense of design, later his sense of humor, and ultimately his sense of the ineffable.”

Arlyn Ende
Sewanee TN
October 19, 2014

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