Intimate Immensity: Daydreaming in Sculpture

by Nell Shaw Cohen

Written for Liberal Arts Seminar: Interarts (LARTS 295, Fall 2011)

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Gaston Bachelard’s essay “Intimate Immensity” describes daydreaming as a transportive state of mind enabling the dreamer to “contemplate grandeur” and infinity (183). For Bachelard, a daydream is not merely an inconsequential, sidetracked train of thought, as the term “daydream” is often, somewhat disparagingly, used to denote. Daydreaming can produce a heightened state of consciousness giving access to the depths of imagination (“immensity”) living within (“intimacy”).

Prompted by artist Robin Dash in her Interarts studio class, I responded to Bachelard’s concept of “intimate immensity” in daydreaming through sculpture. The sculpture was to become both a metaphor for daydreaming and the product of a daydream-like creative process. Ideally, it would also evoke the sensation of daydreaming in its viewers. Provided with three contrasting types of objects with which to construct the temporary sculpture—small, variously sized wood blocks, felt squares, and strings of white plastic beads—I knew immediately and instinctively that I wanted to use the wood blocks to create a circular structure with a sense of depth. The circularity of the structure would convey a sense of infinity or “immensity”—although, paradoxically, this circle was constructed from rectangular blocks. The structure’s depth would invite the viewer inside the world of the sculpture, producing a sense of “intimacy,” as a dreamer is inside a dream.

Following my first impulse I worked fairly rapidly, completing the piece in about 20 minutes. I stacked the blocks to create a structure that looked like a small chimney or well about 1 ½ feet in diameter, improvising the number, size, and arrangement of blocks I would use according to how the sculpture unfolded and how structurally stable it was. Covering the outer wall of the structure with lavender felt, I folded the felt squares over to create undulating, petal-like formations. The hard edges of the blocks contrasted with these soft, edge-less petals. Draped strings of white beads over the inner base of the structure suggested the motion of falling into an infinite center—inviting the viewers to peer downwards and to put their mind and eyes into the structure. The end product had a womb- or cocoon-like quality, perhaps resulting from this effort to evoke intimacy.

Making pencil sketches of the completed sculpture enabled me to live with my work and to turn it over in my mind. Through sketching, I was able to reflect on the process of construction from concept to object. The experience of creating the sculpture was itself much like daydreaming, transporting me “outside the immediate world” (Bachelard 183). The drawings themselves were byproducts and recordings of that process. Like a daydream, the sculpture was always intended to be ephemeral: the temporary sculpture was disassembled shortly after I finished the sketches.

 

Works Cited

 

Bachelard, Gaston and M. Jolas. “Intimate Immensity.” The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon, 1994. 183-210. Print.

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