Landscape + Light at the Edith Farnsworth House
This piece was developed based on excerpts taken from Landscape + Light Exhibition Overview at the Edith Farnsworth House.
An interdisciplinary artist that takes immersive art to a new level, David Wallace Haskins was the Edith Farnsworth House artist in residence in 2022. Inspired by the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Haskins’s exhibit Landscape + Light is breathtaking in its use of light to draw attention to the house and 60 acres of land that are an essential part of this National Trust Historic Site. Haskins said, “I have come to realize that when we witness the sky and the earth unfolding around us in quiet and ever-changing ways, it inevitably encourages us to join in and learn from their unhurried pace, and to rest back into our own unfolding. I’m very interested in how the landscape and light around us greatly affects the landscape and light within us.”
For Haskins, Mies was a pioneer of the Light and Space artistic movement, even though he created his minimalist works decades before the movement's popularity in 1960s southern California. This connection is what drew Haskins to the residency, making the Edith Farnsworth House the perfect setting for his approach to challenging visitors’ expectations and perceptions. Haskins said, “I am interested in creating work where the art is something happening within us and around us, transforming our interior and exterior world in surprising and meaningful ways.”
Haskins started his work at the Edith Farnsworth House during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. The time spent within the stillness of the site had him realizing “how much the drive out had to do with the experience of being there, the way the landscape and sky opened up and became more legible, it slows down the mind in a very meaningful way.”
Landscape + Light is the result of that contemplation, a series of artistic experiences which ask visitors to slow down and widen their senses. [Ed. note: While the rest of Landscape + Light is still on display, The Memory of Glass ended March 2023.]
Image Continuous sits in an open glade adjacent to the Edith Farnsworth House. It invites visitors to leave the path and move further into the landscape to experience the nearly invisible large-scale site-responsive sculpture. Fun fact: This piece is made of one-ton (or 75 linear feet) of mirrored skyscraper glass, or half the glass Mies used to glaze Farnsworth’s home.
Those who experience this piece, a new sculptural masterwork from Haskins’s Skycube series, find themselves shifting from spectator to participant as their movement causes the sculpture’s appearance to shift and change revealing the sky wrapped in the earth. As Haskins said, “The sky is all around us, the troposphere starts at the ground and rises 10 miles high, we live in it and breathe it every day. In fact, there is no part of the natural world we could be more intimately connected to—here we get to experience this presence in a truly personal, embodied, and relational way.”
The Memory of Glass
Located within the house itself, The Memory of Glass was Haskins’s immersive architectural intervention building on the recent scientific discovery that some glass can retain memory in ways that resemble neurons. Here, Haskins engineered a way for the 12 large glass windows of the house to become large glass speakers with each pane gently vibrating and emitting a unique channel of sound outward into the landscape and inward into the home. With The Memory of Glass, Haskins pushed Mies’s philosophy of blurring the line between indoors and the outdoors further, allowing the architecture to finally become fully transparent aurally as well as visually, further dissolving the boundary between the interior and exterior world.
Haskins used sounds from his field recordings on the property to bring in birdsong, crickets, bald eagles, egrets, owls, coyotes, traffic, even a flood gurgling up the side of the house. He also used archival recordings—at one-point listeners heard a violinist (presumably Farnsworth) practicing her favorite piece of music during a thunderstorm. They also heard Mies conversing about his work, as well as Lord Palumbo sharing his favorite music to listen to in the house while telling stories about how he came to own the house after Farnsworth. The work allows the adage “if these walls could speak" to be realized, enabling the house to tell its own story.
Walking to the other end of the property, visitors find themselves approaching a new path that Haskins created to lead visitors to his third installation: Stone Landing, a previously hidden location that offers the most expansive views of the Fox River diverging around an easterly island. This picturesque site became the artist’s favorite place to spend time watching the great egret and crane do their fishing during his residency. To draw visitors to this location Haskins installed a meditative stone sculpture from his new Stone Kōan series.
Mies appreciated stone as he grew up working in his father’s stone carving shop. For the Edith Farnsworth House, the architect hand-selected Italian travertine from the same quarry used to build the Roman Colosseum and Pantheon and used them to pave the upper and lower terrace of the home. Unfortunately, the last 70 years of weathering left some of these stones in need of replacement, which allowed Haskins to use pieces of the original house to create this new series of stone sculptures.
The 250-pound landing stone that Mies chose as the final step to the upper terrace was used by Haskins to create his largest Stone Kōan which now sits at the river’s edge of Stone Landing. As the sky reflects off the flowing river through the uniquely cut circular aperture in the stone, the foreground and background seem to coalesce onto a single plane inviting contemplation. The artist also installed a matched pair of low-resonating tubular bells which he hung in the trees to each side of a wooden bench which he built to offer a place to relax and take in the sights and sounds. As the breeze comes off the water, it activates a warm stereo hum that encourages all to linger.
If you are interested in purchasing a piece from the Stone Kōan sculpture series email Farnsworth@EdithFarnsworthhouse.org. Price is available upon request, and all proceeds go to the continued care of the Edith Farnsworth House
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