Spiderwebs are beautiful. They are especially arresting when abandoned and covered in dew. Like rainbows, almost everyone agrees they are beautiful. But unlike rainbows, spiderwebs serve a function; they are traps. I suppose what makes spiderwebs so visually enticing is the complexity of the pattern and the fine-lined translucence of the material. They can also be admired for their brilliant engineering and yet they are temporary.
You could immediately identify this installtion as three large spiderwebs, but the material was unclear without closer inspection. Glass beads were strung on some fine, but irregular translucent material that was in fact made of plastic wrap spun on a drop spindle. Viewer after viewer asked, How long did this take? I don’t believe that this work necessarily took more time to make than a lot of other artworks and yet it seemed to solicit this question again and again. Like spiderwebs in nature, these webs seemed to represent time itself and labor. But unlike natural webs these served no function. Because of this they seem emblematic of the labor of art.
Why would someone create this? Why do we make art? This piece brings to mind questions about the practice and function of art, but it seemed to invite more associative readings than formal. The conversation drifted more naturally to biology than to other artists. I asked the artist, because it wasn’t easily identifiable to me, about precedent works. She mentioned a sculpture by Eva Hesse titled Right After at the Milwaukee Museum of art. I also found common ground in the work of Berndnaut Smilde, especially the cloud forms. Nature, but not.
After the reception, and after we had revisited the space with a small group of people and talked for a while about the piece, I drove by the gallery. We had not cleaned up the glasses or wine bottles or put away the chairs. It was night and the lights inside were low. It was at this moment that the piece seemed fully realized to me––the two endeavors, creative and natural overlapping with us like in nature. Spider webs do look like some sort of measure of time, the radial strands like the hands of a clock. They represent time and what it has abandoned. I parked the car and looked in the window at this peculiar scene in the half-light: the circle of empty chairs, the debris, the drooping webs sparking overhead. I thought of the circular, lilting melody of the title, about passing an afternoon discussing art, these strange and pretty things we do before we’re gone.