How Was…Whiting Tennis’ Talk at the Tang?

Let’s talk Tang.  The Tang is a “teaching museum” on campus and one of the coolest, well-designed buildings in Saratoga Springs.  Every year they have new installations, plus they have a permanent collection (once I took an class on 18th-century novels and we got to look at Hogarth etchings for an hour and a half with magnifying glasses).  The Tang looks like a 3D version of one of those tangram puzzles you do in elementary school.

Last week the artist Whiting Tennis (FABULOUS NAME) was here for the Dunkerley Dialogue to talk about his Opener 22 show — it’s the 22nd installation in the Tang’s Opener series.  People got to the Tang early for coffee and art chats.

Curator Ian Berry joined him and they discussed the creepy and cool photographs, sculptures and paintings in the installation.  WT was a little shy, but when he got into whatever he was talking about, he started making hand gestures, smiling and otherwise grooving into the art talk.  It was very charming.

One theme of his work is the relationship between manmade structures and nature: the way people can’t ever seem to keep their houses tidy, the way trees and branches overtake buildings, the way architecture can mimic natural forms.  One of the first photographs he showed was one he had taken in Seattle of a white house with a washer and dryer sitting next to it; it all looked pretty banal until he explained that it looked like a “mother bear with her two cubs” and explained how fascinating it was when inanimate objects take on personalities.  From that point on, it was easy to see the human (and animal) qualities in his work.  One sculpture looked like a “rhinoceros hut”; a tar-covered wooden sculpture resembled a pet dog.


Photo courtesy of the Tang website.

The Whiting Tennis installation is absolutely worth seeing if you come up to check Skidmore out — if you don’t recognize the Tang for its odd shape, you’ll see one of the artist’s sculptures right outside.  If you can’t make it, here’s a virtual panorama of the show.

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