Sam Van Aken: A Hole in the Sky
Artist Sam Van Aken ponders the ineffable and the possibility of transforming matter in a way that might be described as miraculous. He invites us to contemplate questions such as: how to represent (or, more accurately, present) that which is imagined or based on belief? For MWPAI, Van Aken is thinking about weather patterns, and altering them: what are atmospheric effects on the body and on the psyche? If they are oppressive, can the atmosphere be altered to uplift the spirit?
Van Akens Sculpture Court Project, A Hole in the Sky, is comprised of two components, Acadia and Smell of a Storm, which attempt to create a new atmosphere or aura within the Museum of Art. For Acadia, he fills the Edward W. Root Sculpture Court with 10-foot weather balloons that are inflated with air from Acadia National Park, Mt. Desert Island, Maine. During the course of the exhibition, as the balloons deflate, the Museum will be suffused with this sea air, like an inspiration, and the atmosphere will be modified. For Smell of a Storm he creates conditions for another kind of atmospheric sensation, that of inducing the ecstatic aura that precedes seizures or migraines.
And perhaps most important to A Hole in the Sky, during the course of the exhibition, Van Aken would like to create above the Museum a punch hole (also called a fall streak hole), with a small plane in a kind of reverse-skywriting process that is related to cloud seeding, the 20th centurys answer to weather modification. For Sam, it is a method to pierce the late-autumn or winter clouds that dominate Central New York so as to create an unobstructed connection between Earth and sky above, like a miraculous connection.
Sam Van Aken is Associate Professor at Syracuse University, where he is head of the sculpture program. He is represented by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, and has exhibited his work internationally.
Sam Van Akens art combines sophisticated technology with traditional modes of art-making. Van Akens projects cross boundaries between artistic genres, including performance, installation, video, photography, and sculpture.
I am in the business of white whales and windmills, a maker of crude stand-ins and magical devices. My practice is of intimation and approximation, allusions to where our sense of the sublime has expanded. These props, these fragments and frames are only a means to make tangible that which has no form. Here the real is artifice and it is staged in dissonant moments, in the haze of lost meanings, in verisimilitudes, constructed in the gaps between the lived, the fictive, and the desired. My aim is the ecstatic, a potential, an experience of being more than alive.
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1972, Van Aken received an undergraduate degree in Communication Theory and Art. Following his studies he lived and worked in Poland under the auspices of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the United States Information Agency. After several years in Europe, Van Aken returned to the States and received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in 2001. Since that time he has exhibited his work nationally and internationally and has received numerous honors, including a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant, Association of International Curators of Art Award, and a 2009 Creative Capital Grant. Sam Van Aken is an Associate Professor and the Sculpture Program Director at Syracuse University and is represented by Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York.