I felt like I was walking through an enchanted forest, with the trees spreading out to make a trail for me.
That was my answer when Ursula von Rydingsvard asked me how “The Contour of Feeling,” her current installation at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., made me feel. This forest of treelike forms was handcrafted from four-by-four and two-byfour lengths of cedar wood, layered upon each other like shingles intricately formed into massive constructions. They are temporarily screwed together in layers, then glued together with resorcinol — a World War II glue used for ship mending. They towered over me or lay on the floor, formed into slithering antediluvian monsters of shingled wood.
This artist, veteran of shows and residencies at Storm King Art Center, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Venice Biennale, grew up in Plainville, Connecticut, after immigrating to America. She created a powerful forest, with trees of great magnitude and bowls of huge proportions from small pieces of wood.
Von Rydingsvard prefers silver that tarnishes and wood that ages and softens its corners, recalling how people grow old. Her “bowls” have narrow bottoms, opening up as they reach for the sky. Lace made of wood, as if worms have eaten through, or as if the wood could not hold solid when pulled taut, tops the bowls. She applies graphite at the edges to accentuate the appearance of age and deterioration. She said she makes it up as she goes along with one part leading her to the next step, “implying something else that it needs.”