Not a Ghost, But An Artist Haunting

Last week I wrote a post that described an old house wrapped around an older house I wrote about the partial dismantling of the wrapping, and the demolition of a long suffering addition at the rear of that building.  There was a parallel interest in the demolition activities for me that I did not mention- a personal anecdote that I’ve decided to share here in a separate “sister” post.

One day the builder called me to say that he had begun the demolition process in our project and had some discoveries to share.  I walked over to the site to meet with him.  It was the first meaningful demolition work in the project, and it involved cutting the addition loose from the main house.

The addition, still standing, was now separated from the main house by a narrow slot of space, opened to the sky above and to the ground below (or, rather, the dirt floor of the former crawlspace).  I was immediately drawn to the slot and I tried my best to photograph it.  Unfortunately, good perspectives were elusive.

This cut through the building, to me, was an unintended homage.  One of the esoteric delights I sometimes encounter in my work that are not always easy to share because something uniquely personal, uncommon or obscure is involved. It’s like having to describe an inside joke or a “you had to be there” moment.  Kind gestures of trying to relate tend to follow, but it’s all just awkward and can leave you feeling like things would have been better left unsaid.  You may want to keep this in mind as you read on…


The slot stayed there for some time, until the addition was finally completely removed.  But until then, each time I visited the jobsite my little delight, indulged in secret solitude, was renewed.

Not long after the slot first appeared, the removal of a dilapidated barn structure commenced.  That piece of demolition was also a phased process, and for a time that structure stood with just one wall and the roof removed, leaving the other three walls intact.  The builder had taken away a part of the building, leaving an exposed edge bare.  Again, my delight was renewed…it was another unintended homage.  Without a doubt, this jobsite was becoming something like a temporary gallery exhibiting work in the vein of an artist whose work I admire but hadn’t thought of in a while.

And then, in my mind, a really nice thing happened – something small, but very oddly coincidental.  To many, perhaps it’s a big “so what”.  But these little coincidences happen to me now and then, and when they happen, they bring another dimension of delight into my day.

I was in NYC with my daughter.  We decided to visit a particular current exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art.  But before we took that in, I asked that we visit the Architecture and Design galleries.  It had been years since I was last there, and I wanted to see some of the drawings and models that I used to go to when I was younger.  Sadly, I found that they have all been transitioned out of the galleries, into storage (wow, I guess it has been a while).  But in the large area that antecedes the galleries, something was waiting to greet me.



Yes!  The work of the artist Gordon Matta-Clark who had been haunting me at my job site!  While the museum had transitioned some of my favorite pieces to storage over the years since I had last visited, some work of Matta-Clark had been transitioned in!

In the “About the Artist” section of his MoMA website page there is this:  “He is best known for a series of ‘building cuts’ (1972–8) in which he carved sections out of old buildings, treating them (in the manner of modern sculptures) as spatial compositions. Calling these transformations ‘Anarchitecture’, Matta-Clark carved the buildings up with a chain saw, documenting the changes in films and photographs subsequently exhibited in galleries, often alongside fragments of the buildings themselves. His most celebrated work, Four Corners: Splitting (1974; see Lee, nos 1.3, 1.7–10, 1.13–6), consisted of a vertical slice through an old frame house in Englewood, NJ.”  More here


So, that’s it.  That’s how this story closes.  A brief summary:  Matta-Clark visits my thoughts and then his work greets me unexpectedly when I visit MoMA.  A big so what?  Or a nodding agreement that these little occurrences stitch things together for us, in delightful ways, rebooting dormant interests and renewing appreciations from years gone by?  In this round, I was not only re-engaged with the vibe of a good coincidence, but my weird love of old, deconstructed construction was fed and refreshed with a dose of serendipity.



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