Step out of your car at Fruitlands, look across the Nashua River Valley covered with the lush mixed forest so typical of New England, then gaze west to Wachusett Mountain, and there will be no question why the transcendentalists sought to make this corner of Harvard, Massachusetts, their utopia. Now under the aegis of the Trustees of Reservations, the Fruitlands Museum preserves the buildings and landscape of the short-lived Transcendentalist colony while providing year-round art and cultural offerings. The exhibits currently on display, “Floating Between Two Worlds” and “A New View” and “Pastoral Present,” offer summer visitors the opportunity to see both new works by contemporary artists and venerated paintings from the permanent collection.
Commissioned by the Trustees to design and construct an outdoor installation, multidisciplinary artist Esther Solondz created “Floating Between Two Worlds.” The common milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca) found throughout the New England countryside provided the unlikely material used by Solondz to produce a grouping of ethereal, columnar forms suspended from the ceiling of the protective structure that houses the installation.
A resident of Providence, Rhode Island, Solondz maintains a studio in New Hampshire, where, during the summer, from the large barn door of her studio, she looks out onto a field of milkweed plants that mature, flower and form seed pods. Once ripe, the pods burst — releasing their seeds to float in the air on their white, fluffy coma, acting like tiny parachutes for the seeds. It is the white coma, probably from tens of thousands of seeds, that Solondz collected and formed into free-form sculptures.
To preserve the work, a protective, metal framed structure of fine white netting was built. It protects the delicate milkweed forms, but lets the wind flow through allowing the sculptures floating gently in the breeze. Each of the structures has a unique movement pattern depending on its symmetry, weight and mass. The movement produced by the wind is thus incorporated as a critical element of the installation as a whole and for the individual sculptures.