Mary Miss

Greenwich County Day School

Wondering where to begin. Wanted to start my review of Mary Miss’s new piece with waking up. Sun sparkling my windows. A desire to be outside, out of the city. But what does that have to do with the work? Well, it’s part of the experience I brought to the work, feeding into my experience of the piece. Traveling on the train. Fashionable ladies posed at the stations, set for Fifth Avenue. My journey a pilgrimage, implicit in gallery visits, explicit here. Getting off at Greenwich. Past a parade of silent mansions. Finally the site. Striding across an open playing field. Manicured golf course to the right contrasting with the unkempt jumble of trees and brambles ahead. Seeing the piece from a distance. A puzzling hutlike construction. Manmade order imposing itself on the hurly-burly of the landscape? And yet somehow secretive. Like a grounded tree fort, a clandestine clubhouse. Imagine the brambles surrounding the piece eventually enveloping until the assertive wooden frame becomes subdued and obscured. Continuing softly along a pine-needled pathway. The piece disappears until rounding a corner there it is straight ahead in front.

Description. The path has turned to mud, somewhat swampy from the nearby brook. The work sits slightly above on a mound. Wooden posts rise vertically about 13 feet to define a 20-foot-wide circle. Notched and pegged-together segments of wood band in four rings around the posts in articulation and repetition of the circular shape. While the structure is exposed on the outside, the interior is sealed off by sheets of steel warping around the inner edges to close off the latticed openings of the frame. The steel, however, reaches only about ten feet, leaving the tops of the stakes uncovered. Implied extension? The opening up of inside to outside to sky? But wait, that comes later. Below directly in line with the path, a rectangle cuts horizontally at ground level into the steel. A window to the inside. No, an entrance. Approaching, this rectangle becomes the top of a T stemming into the ground. And I see there are people below me, inside. Crouching to look through the opening, I discover that the bottom is water.

Later I borrow a pair of rubber boots. Lowering my body into the narrow slot carved into the path and encased in steel, I find the ground has risen slightly above my waist. Proceeding, through the T, inside. The water laps perilously close to the tops of my boots. Directly opposite is another rectangle through which one sees the path continuing, now almost at eye level. A window, an exit, to the outside now that one is in. Enclosed within a space but not really. Try to convey the feeling of being inside yet out. Of a space which is contained and defined but also open and intangible. The circle as a stop, a pause in the forward linearity of the path. Standing still. Contemplation. Feet squishing through water to sense their groundedness suctioned to the bottom. Eyes tracing the walled boundaries which locate one within a particular place. A sense of presence, of being there, inside. Yet, above, the tops of the posts signal upward to the sky. Around me the steel glints the sun and flashes imperfect reflections. Tints of blue sky. The shadowed outline of the wall curves slowly downward on both sides to the water. Below the water mirrors above. Its image somewhat muted now by the layer of ice which has captured its surface. Still, glimmers of treetops and clouds. Reflections leading outside to a world that envelops just as the structure encircles. Is this my own pantheism seeping through? But the structure is the support. It provides the focus for my experience. And maybe that’s its importance. A direction but not a conclusion. The experience is essentially private.

Susan Heinemann