Visual Art

The Pleasure Is All Mine

Angela White Excavates Accidents

The gallery lights in the front room were off because the day was hot. In the back room Angela White was packing her tools away after spending three weeks calibrating all the parts of this room-sized installation, variations of which she has constructed before. I was unprepared and so was she so we stood together in awkward silence between question and answer, staring at bits of sea glass, coffee cups, and antique milk glass swinging on strings.

She told me they were salvaged from Dead Horse Bay on Brooklyn's Barren Island, where horses once were rendered. The place became a landfill and then decades later a hurricane blew through and churned up glass, crockery, dentures, rubber cement, horse bones, and other things. Is this a good time? For this? I asked. A rock affixed to the white platter of a turntable spun slowly and bumped a floral-patterned coffee-cup shard that gently jostled the next shard and bonked the next one and so on.

A delicate chiming happened somewhere between the first and the last of the dozen or so shards, a musical accident strung along filament. Across the room, a row of hard gray chunks swung in unison beside a strand of tan cupless handles. The two sides met at the intersection of an ordinary-looking rock glued atop a black turntable platter on the floor. The artist told me she found the rock in Venezuela.

The conversation drifted toward conclusion so I moved to a different view. The Coast Starlight passed by, seashells and glasses clinked, the air leaned toward heavy. I watched a broken slab of green earthenware twist wildly over another turntable. It had no direct contact with anything around it, just shifted the local atmosphere enough to influence everything nearby. All the reclaimed bits turn precious in this new arrangement, their status shifts—once garbage, now music. A string of narrow seashells across the room catches my eye. A lone shell bobs up and down, tangling the lines. Did the artist intend this mishap? I wondered but didn't ask. recommended

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