Celebrate Plensa Nights at Cheekwood…for Free
Every Friday in October, Cheekwood is open late to offer spectacular views of Jaume Plensa’s large scale sculptures, which are scattered throughout the gardens, transform with the changing lights of night to day. Couple that with Spanish inspired dining at the Pineapple Room, music and more for a fabulous evening.
Cheekwood is giving away 2 pair of tickets to 2 Nashville Arts Magazine readers. Enter now!
1. Log in to Twitter.
2. Click this link and do not edit the tweet (we will be searching for this to randomly select a winner).
Get ready for the art experience. Read our interview with Jaume Plensa below.
Sculptor Jaume Plensa Brings Human Landscape to Cheekwood and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts
Cheekwood • May 22 through November 1 & Frist Center • June 5 through September 5
by F. Douglass Schatz
Beginning in May, internationally renowned sculptor Jaume Plensa opened his largest U.S. exhibition to date in Nashville with one show presented simultaneously at the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum of Art and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape will feature outdoor works on the grounds of Cheekwood in addition to sculptures at the Frist.
The exhibition was conceived by Jane MacLeod, the president of Cheekwood, who approached the Frist’s Susan Edwards about a collaboration between the two institutions. MacLeod says, “Cheekwood’s unique ability to showcase outdoor contemporary sculpture makes for a great partnership with the Frist and its amazing interior gallery spaces.”
Plensa is best known for his large-scale figurative works that have been exhibited in many major city parks and museums. Jochen Wierich, chief curator at Cheekwood, counts Plensa as “one of the leading creators of outdoor sculpture in public spaces across the world.” The Frist’s chief curator, Mark Scala, finds the work of Plensa to be “serious, poetic, and deeply intelligent.”
Like his work, Mr. Plensa is thoughtful and poetic, but he is also very personable and accessible. His ruminations on life and the state of being synchronize perfectly with his sculptures in that each is easily engaged, but also more than it seems at first. Plensa’s sculptures have immediate visual impact, but the power of his sculpture comes from the ideas that the forms represent. As beautiful as they are, it is impossible not to engage his sculptures on a visceral and intuitive level.
Doug Schatz (DS): What is the significance of the human form in your work?
Jaume Plensa (JP): It’s the relationship between the body and also the soul, this duality that I am using in my work so often. My work with text that I make in the shape of the human body and my work with portraits, it is the main focus of my work.
DS: You mention the text—is there a meaning behind the letters?
JP: In the last few years I have been working with single letters or characters from different cultures, mixing alphabets from different origins. It is a biological approach where you see a single letter A, B, or C that seems like nothing, but together you can compose words. It is a beautiful metaphor about human beings that alone seem like nothing but together can create a community, country, etc. It is a beautiful expression of our human condition.
DS: There is a piece called The Heart of Trees that uses real trees. What is the significance of the tree in this work?
JP: I love music, and I never forgot that when I was a child my father would play the piano. He had an upright piano that I would hide inside, and I would feel the amazing vibration of the instrument and the music and the materials. In The Heart of Trees I wanted to pay homage to my memories in this way. It is seven times my self-portrait, and my body is covered with names of music composers that I love. [Each figure is] embracing one tree that is alive, and my body is cast in bronze and fixed in one size and shape. It is a metaphor about our body that gets fixed in a specific size and shape and our soul, which could be the tree that continues to grow up. I am always asking myself where the soul is going, because there is not enough room in our body for the soul that continues to grow.
DS: Some of the portrait heads seem to be elongated. Could you describe why?
JP: To try to touch the spirituality of the face, to transform the face into something more general. To elongate the head so it’s more the portrait of the soul and not the face.
DS: You use a lot of different materials in your work. Could you talk about what the materials mean?
JP: For me, materials are the way to express ideas; it’s not really the main direction of the work. For me, the main material is ideas. Each piece is more or less born specifically with one material. It is interesting to see the same idea in different materials, to see how much it changes with each material.
DS: What is the importance of the poses of your figures?
JP: The portraits are always in a dream state, but . . . my figures are crouching in a very meditative attitude because I’m trying to emphasize the importance of the interior path. Inside ourselves we have another landscape that we are hiding from others, and it is important to invite people to think about themselves. When the viewer is in front of my piece I hope the piece becomes a mirror where they could reflect their own image.
DS: Tell me about scale in your work.
JP: It is so important the way you use scale in the pieces. For example, it would be a terrific experience to see my pieces installed on the big lawn at Cheekwood, but also similar pieces installed in the interior space at the Frist Museum. I will display two cast-iron heads seven meters tall which are portraits but in so huge a scale that it becomes a completely different feeling, like an icon or a landmark or something that relates to divinity.
DS: Many of your works have an interior space. What is the relationship between the interior and exterior?
JP: In many of my outdoor installations I am trying to invite people to interact with my work. The pieces are open so that people can walk through, and when you are inside you see the world in a completely different way. When people are inside they feel like a part of the piece. In other cases when I am using light, like in my installation of three fiberglass figures fixed to the wall, which I call angels, it’s an inner light. It is a secret space that reminds me of the soul inside our bodies. The interior space is as important as the exterior space.
In The Heart of Trees the interior of the piece is completely filled up with the trunk of the tree. This means that there is incredible energy of something alive trying to expand and reach the sky in that interior space of the bronze figure.
DS: I find some humor in your work even though the subject matter is serious. Is that deliberate, or is it your personality coming through in the work?
JP: I don’t know; that’s the first time somebody has asked me that. For me, it was a terrific experience when I opened the fountain in Chicago. I noticed that everyone that made the decision to go inside the pool started to smile immediately. I’m not sure if I have a sense of humor, but it’s true that my pieces possess a certain kind of lightness or peacefulness, something very emotional but in a peaceful way. I guess people feel relaxed and understand that it is possible to enjoy themselves in an interior way. But, hopefully, my pieces have a sense of humor. I think it is important.
DS: How are the big mesh heads constructed?
JP: I have a couple of mesh heads that we are installing on the pond at Cheekwood. The heads come from the 3-D mesh of my portraits. I’ve always been fascinated when I was working with the computer. There is a mesh outline on the screen, and I felt I had to transform that mesh into something physical. Obviously, I am from the Mediterranean, and I need to verify everything with my fingers. It was great for me to see the beautiful mesh on the screen, and I worked really hard to pass that form into reality. For the first head, we spent nine months making it, but it was amazing because finally I could talk about the interior in another way. When you are in front of the piece you are seeing through the piece, and all the landscape becomes part of the work.
The visual poetry of Plensa’s sculptures can be felt on a spiritual level as well as through the beauty of the forms that he constructs. Whether one is steeped in the lexicon of art history or simply a casual art viewer, his work resonates deeply and captures the imagination without question.
Jaume Plensa: Human Landscape will be open at Cheekwood May 22 to November 1 and at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts June 5 to September 5. For more information about each exhibit visit www.cheekwood.org and www.fristcenter.org.
Cheekwood is open until 10:00 PM on Thursdays for the summer.