Humanity’s fleeting nature

Saturday afternoon I went to the Glenstone Art Gallery ( in Potomac MD. As I walked through the collection by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, I was struck by the variety of the pieces. While I’m not sure what the artists intended their audience to take away, the collection made me think that it represented human nature – fleeting, sometimes random, and always many things at once.

The first room was filled with a series of sculptures made of unfired clay and charred rubber. Two of the pieces that I remember in particular were Happy Monks, where four monks sat together drinking, and Peanuts. The peanut shells looked so real I was tempted to pick one up and crack it open to eat it (I guess I was hungry).

The next room contained a collection of photographs. Each one was made of some kind of balancing act. A wine bottle holding a cheese grater holding up a cucumber which connected to a hanger. Somehow all of these pieces stood up long enough for them to take the picture. The theme of this balancing act echoed throughout the room. This resonates with me immensely as I consider how many things we are each juggling at the same time. It’s something of a miracle that we manage to keep most of the balls in the air.

From there we moved on into a workshop that the artists had constructed entirely from polyurethane foam. The items included a can of Red Bull, several wooden planks, and a full set of tools. Each of these was set up so that they actually looked real. I was so impressed but as I took a step back, I started to consider the series of what I had seen.

The next room featured a table display of over 2000 photos stretching off into the distance. Cities, beaches, mountains, people. The “sculpture” stretched off into the distance like a road that you would follow over an entire lifetime.

One after the other, I felt like the rooms opened a window on  human nature. We have fleeting thoughts that often do not connect – from peanuts to happy monks. Like unfired clay, those thoughts are short lived. To go about our daily lives we are trying to pull off a constant balancing act as depicted in the photos from the second room. Our minds are cluttered like the workshop the artists’ recreated. And finally our lives stretch on into the distance. What we remember from individual moments is often in random snippets. We tend not to remember every part of a moment or place at once, but separate triggers bring different aspects to mind.

Walking through the exhibit at Glenstone offered me an outside perspective on human nature. What are your thoughts and responses? I would love to hear your perspectives.


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