Seven Lumps, (Lydia’s Sculpture)
No one needs these lumps, (Lydia’s sculptures) they are not useful, they are not recognizable, they are not necessary and yet, in another sense, they are needed. These objects seek to remove themselves entirely from the things we are familiar with and make use of and the more they succeed in this the more valuable they become. This value is not a matter of an increase in wealth or material comfort, quite the contrary. This is about how we access our humanity. It is about what it is to be human; to care for something or someone other than ones self, to suffer and to be vulnerable and to hurt, and to be hopeful, joyful and kind.
These objects, (Lydia’s sculptures) are about the size of a small child, a toddler, and they move unpredictably, like a toddler. They are a family, the seven of them, sharing an outward appearance and they communicate with each other. Yet they are not alike -- each asserts its independence. What one sees on the surface is a patchwork of roughly torn paper and plaster, red and white. These sculptures are untidy, messy even. Their forms are neither organic nor geometric and they sit on the floor, stable yet precarious. It is as if they are frozen in the middle of an action -- striding, bending, leaping, turning, or summersaulting. Yet the sculptures are perfectly still, it is the viewer who must move. The sculptures cannot be understood without the viewer moving, looking at them from different angles. But, even as one moves around these sculptures they cannot be understood. They continually surprise and it is as if the sculptures are reconfiguring themselves all the while one is looking at them.
And yet can this be correct? Perhaps this evocation of frolicking toddlers is completely wrong. The paper is in strips about the width of bandages and surely, this red is the red of blood. Are these forms not caught in the act of play? Rather, are they stunted, amputated, mutilated, crouching, hiding? Is the apparently endless reconfiguring a way to avoid being seen? In a way, yes, these sculptures are to be seen, to be looked at, but it is the case that they will not allow you to know them. What are they hiding? What are they keeping from you -- their pain? Are they in pain? No, this is absurd. These sculptures cannot feel, they are just useless inert objects made from plaster and paper!
Yet wait, and wait again. Could this assertion that they are just useless, unrecognizable, conglomerations of matter be a shying away from the possibility that engaging with them will touch something profoundly uncomfortable in us? I think this is the case. I think these useless inert lumps have the power to speak to us, to speak to something we have no words for. Words enable us to distance ourselves, to separate ourselves. Words help us to manage things, keeping them apart and apart from us, putting us in control of them. Having no words for something makes that thing fraught. In the end this is the value of these sculptures; through resisting our efforts to “explain” them they make present things thought cannot grasp, things we have no words for. If we allow them to these sculptures will affirm something we understand but can easily forget – that joy is multiplied when shared - that pain is less when seen, acknowledged and understood.