Monday March 22, 2010 | by ptravisano

Timed to the GAS Conference, the 21c Museum will unveil multimedia installation by Louisville, Kentu

The atrium of the 21c Museum, where Anne Peabody's work will be installed in late May.

On June 10, 2010, the 21c Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, will unveil a giant tornado by Brooklyn-based artist Anne Peabody. Measuring approximately 24-feet in height and 18-feet across at its widest point, the piece entitled Wheel of Fortune (2010) will have a skeleton of steel beams overlaid by a collage of thousands of silvered wood carvings and glass pieces which will spiral upwards and expand into the museum’s atrium.

This detail of the wooden swan shows how Peabody used silvering on both glass and wood objects.

The wood carvings represent objects found in the wake of a tornado: batteries, cigarette butts, and even a figure of a swan. The glass pieces, however, are actual found pieces such as ashtrays, bottles, coffee cups, and even the type of convex security mirrors you might find at a grocery store to prevent shoplifting. Both the wood and glass pieces are silvered.

Peabody was born in Louisville, Kentucky, and received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 2004. Her work was included in the “Glass Stress“ exhibition at the 2009 Venice Biennale.

A selection of the silvered glass pieces to be attached to the tornado.

“I wanted to tell a story with Wheel of Fortune,” Peabody told The Hot Sheet in a telephone interview. “Not just my memories of the tornado, but everyone’s. I used a wide variety of objects to represent the many stories that came out of the tornado, and gave them reflection to create a kaleidoscope effect where people can see themselves in the objects, both literally and figuratively.”

Wheel of Fortune was inspired specifically by the 1974 tornado that hit Louisville, Kentucky, when Peabody was just six years old.

“That tornado was one of the most horrific things to ever happen to Louisville, but it was also one of the best experiences of my life,” Peabody recalled. “My mom wouldn’t let me have a Barbie, and after the tornado, all these toys ended up in our backyard, including a life-size Barbie doll head. I remember being so happy that the tornado had come.” Peabody laughed for a moment.

“Then something else happened,” she reflected. “Though I was happy with the toys that fell from the sky, I felt sad for my neighbors who were forced to move from their homes and into shelters. It was the first time I can remember feeling guilty.” (Included among the 300-plus wood carvings is a life-sized Barbie doll head based on the one she found in her backyard.)

Though she has been carving for over three years in anticipation of finding a venue to exhibit this work, the tornado has not yet been installed in Louisville. Peabody has rented a studio in there from April 1st until the end of May, where she will construct the majority of the tornado. “Then we’re going to break it all down, and install it from May 23rd to May 26th,” she said. The piece will be unveiled on June 10th.

An exterior view of the 21c Museum in Louisville, Kentucky.

The 21c Museum in Louisville, which also doubles as a hotel, houses contemporary art installations in 9,000 square feet of exhibition space, as well as in public spaces throughout the facility — in hallways, around elevators, and even inside bathrooms. Installations and exhibitions change approximately every six months, promoting contemporary artists from all over the world. The museum also offers events, such as poetry readings and “yoga with art” classes.

—Paul Travisano


Anne Peabody
“Two Story Tornado of Thousands of Wood and Glass Objects”
21c Museum
700 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Tel: 502 217-6300

Glass: The UrbanGlass Quarterly, a glossy art magazine published four times a year by UrbanGlass has provided a critical context to the most important artwork being done in the medium of glass for more than 40 years.