“Sky Cathedral” was done by the American sculptor, Louise Nevelson, between 1957 and 1960. It is part of the series “Moongarden + One,” one of many “environments” created by Nevelson consisting of smaller freestanding works and large wall pieces.
When I first saw this work, I was awed. I saw great religious feeling in it and meanwhile, it is made from what the artist called “discarded objects.” She saw these cast-off things, she said, as a means to “understand this universe.”
One of the questions this work answers which Aesthetic Realism shows is tremendous and important in every person’s life is: What should we look up to? The one thing, I have learned, we can honestly look up to, and be proud to do so, is beauty. “All beauty,” stated Eli Siegel, “is the making one of opposites and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”
Meanwhile, Aesthetic Realism shows there is another desire in people–the desire for contempt–the feeling that we should look down on everything else and look up only to ourselves. Contempt, I have learned, is completely opposed to art. When my contempt was criticized by Aesthetic Realism and I began to learn how to see the world aesthetically, as a relation of opposites, my life changed very deeply. I went from a person who was bored and cold to a man whose life is so much richer and deeper because I now see honest meaning in objects, in people and in the world itself.
I. High and Low
In her work, Nevelson showed great respect for what many people would only have contempt for. She said in her book Dawns and Dusks:
“Almost everything I have done was to understand this universe, to see the world clearer. I think ultimately what drove me so desperately was I could only understand it through work…”
And she continues:
“…I began using found objects. I had all this wood lying around and I began to move it around. I began to compose. Anywhere I found wood, I took it home and started working with it. It might be on the streets, it might be from furniture factories.”
“Sky Cathedral” is a wall sculpture consisting of differently shaped boxes stacked upright and on their sides. It is entirely black, over nine feet high and nearly eleven feet wide. In the slide I am showing, the work is lit strongly and has a brown tint so its details can be seen. Yet, under the dim blue illumination the artist preferred, the details within reveal themselves slowly. Within these boxes are different kinds of wood: some are readily identifiable objects–