There’s a lot happening right now. Currently on view is Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature and upcoming is Field Notes | Walter Matia. In between the two was a mini reveal which you may have seen on social media two weeks ago.
We recently received a donation of two large equine sculptures by artist Diana Reuter-Twining, Maestro and Equipoise. First, a hearty kudos to everyone involved with this. It was a very exciting, hold-your-breath few minutes as they were rolled into the gallery. Second, we are beyond delighted to have these join our permanent collection.
Though I had seen pictures of both, it did not quite prepare me for seeing them in person. Maestro depicts a horse with a leg outstretched on top of a ball and on its base is the Fibonacci spiral. As I much as I enjoy both sculptures equally, this blog will be devoted to Equipoise.
Equipoise shows a horse on one end of a balance beam and a dancer on the other. It struck me immediately. The dancer, in particular, with her bare feet, outstretched hands, and wild hair just put a smile on my face. My mind, then, started jumping all around my art history textbook. Hold on tight and follow this crazy train if you can.
Association 1: Verrocchio’s David has always fascinated me because there does not seem to be any way to distinguish between the top half of the subject’s armor and his skin. I understand that a cuirass often had extraordinary detail on it, from emphasizing musculature to military campaign highlights and mythological lineage (looking at you, Augustus), but this goes beyond that. There are visible straps but you can also see his belly button and rib cage.
It seems to be one in a way that is very similar to Reuter-Twining’s dancer and her leotard. We do not see where one stops and one begins.
My brain then skipped ahead to Paris at the turn of the 20th century, the dancer Loie Fuller, and a poster of her by French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901).
It is one of the many advertisement posters he created of various dancers and singers. Though posters had been around for a while, this era of the fin de siècle is when it really develops as an art form. They were also cheap to produce, which was important as performances were often limited engagements. Their size and format were made to fit lamp poles and posts. How else does one attract the attention of the passersby?
Loie Fuller was a solo artist who was known for elaborate routines that choreographed the movement of her body and her long dresses with that of light and color. Her costumes included long skirts and sleeves that billowed as she twisted and turned.
Here is a link a video of someone performing in her style, sometimes called a “serpentine dance.” Though the beginning of the video says it is of her, it actually is not. There is no video in existence of her performing.
What made me think of this poster in particular though is the similarity between the hair of Reuter-Twining’s dancer and Fuller’s expansive costume. The hair looks like it is swept in a frenzy much like Fuller’s dress.
In another five seconds, my mind jumped from Toulouse-Lautrec’s poster to his depictions of circuses…
…which then took me to Association 3: George Seurat.
The connection here is probably a lot more obvious. It was like my mind was whirring through a rolodex – going all the way to “V”, skipping up a bit and alighting on “T” (“not quite what I’m looking for”) and then flipped back to “S” (“ah yes, there you are.”).
With all that said though, Reuter-Twining’s sculpture is its own tour de force. Her dancer is visibly all muscle, unlike Seurat’s lithe bareback rider. Our dancer’s legs are thicker, which is testament to her training. Her bare feet make this very spontaneous for me and as someone who removes her shoes at every opportunity (including sitting at my desk writing blogs…), I appreciate another bare footed individual. The dancer’s nose is slightly upturned giving her a spritely look.
The horse was influenced by the Lipizzaner breed, which can be seen in the stalwart pose, again the opposite of Seurat. Whereas his looks weightless and ethereal, Reuter-Twining’s is solid and strong.
On the dancer and horse are circles traced into the patina that adds texture and a dynamism to the figures.
It also, for me, subtly reinforces the circus, as does the balance beam. But it also goes deeper than that. I like to think that the force of the dancer is what keeps her from flying off, which is technically what should happen when there is a 1,000-pound horse on the other end. Instead, she remains deftly and firmly on her side.
Make sure to stop by and see Reuter-Twining’s sculptures in the Intro Gallery. The Museum is open between 10 am and 4:30 pm. Ticketed access is still recommended but walk-ups are welcome!
Thank you for sticking with me through this art stream of consciousness (though I may have revealed too much of my inner workings). I mostly blame the allergy meds. Stay tuned for Part 2 on my more coherent discussion on Maestro.
Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org