Bryan Nash Gill

Sculpture Magazine 2002

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Wheels in the Fields: Bryan Nash Gill
by Patricia Rosoff
 
   
"Wheels in the fields" was the phrase that popped up in one of Bryan Nash Gill's graduate school critiques at the California College of Arts and Crafts. It was an image of old farm implements rusting amid the rising growth of a farmer's field that this Connecticut farm boy had carried in some forgotten back pocket as he peregrinated from New England to New Orleans (to study glass blowing), to Italy (to study stone carving), to California (where he sought to discover the difference between art and craft), and to various primitive cold-water studio/ aeries in Colorado deserts, California mountainsides,

art.' The only people who saw [this work] were people I brought to it, or who stumbled upon it, like my family when they cross-country skied or walked in the woods. It was very uplifting, very eerie."

More importantly, it directly integrated the experience of a life lived out of doors (Gill is a lifelong woodsman, hunter, and naturalist) with the experience of making art, which is to say, in this case, with upending experience itself. This was art that took on not only the issue of how such a piece is encountered (via surprise and in a real-world context), but also how it is set out (in chorus, but aloft and uprooted) and how it accounts for the poetics of time (by the quiet shed of dead needles amid towering living specimens).

lower Manhattan, and the northern extremities of Maine (where he later set up shop).

After 16 years, however, he came home to the very farm in the western Connecticut hills on which he grew up, which he has since bought and converted into a home and studio complex. For all the study and experience he gathered in his travels, in the end it was returning to New England, to its woods and its history both geological and anthropological that gave him his voice as a sculptor. It was from this place that he first made art that connected to the deeper roots of his sensibility. That first work composed of 42 Christmas trees suspended upside-down, in echelon, in situ, above the floor of the forest contained many of the elements that would come to characterize his mature work as a sculptor. For the first time, says Gill, "I wasn't making something for somebody to buy. I wasn't making something to please somebody else. And I [certainly] wasn't 'making it big, painting it red, throwing it in the field and calling it

Byran Nash Gill Instalation
  Top: Untitled, 1994. 1/4-mile of wire and 32 fir trees, 10 x 60 x 67 ft. diameter.
Bottom: Untitled #2, 1994. Poplar and cuprinol, 42 x 108 x 3.5 in.