I just read this Friday night on the train. Seemed apt:
Brenda Richardson, deputy director of the Baltimore Museum, installed the exhibition there. We had agreed that she would install alone so when I walked into the rooms filled with work dating from First, 1961 to 1991, I had the delight of seeing it from an entirely fresh point of view. One of the trepidations I feel when my sculptures are exhibited is that they may be harmed: people like to touch their surfaces, they mar them without intending to. Brenda forfended this possibility by isolating groups of sculptures inside a designated pathway: they stood aloof from touch save by imagination. I had the happy feeling that the work was safe. [p. 146]
Some time ago a friend who had flown from his home in Boston down to Richmond wrote me a postcard to say that he had seen in a bank there a sculpture he instantly recognized as mine. Recently a little girl saw that same sculpture, Signal. It is a small column, 59 inches tall x 5 1/2 inches x 4 inches, painted in clear yellow, white and blue horizontal planes. It must have looked like a Maypole to this enthusiastic child: she ran to it, hugged it, swung around it–and scuffed it. I do so like her reaction, which mitigated the automatic spasm of anger I always feel when one of my pieces is damaged. The bank has sent me the sculpture for restoration. I am working on Signal now, with the good feeling that I can return it in pristine condition to a place where it apparently encounters appreciation.
Not all damage is that minor. A columnar structure running on a line of gravity from earth to sky is as intrinsically precarious as a human body; no matter how carefully weighted and how strongly constructed, it can be struck down. Knot, a column 81 inches x 8 inches x 8 inches, was recently so toppled. This sculpture had survived the Persian Gulf War in the basement of the American embassy in Tel Aviv, but last month a photographer backed into it and knocked it over. A representative of the U.S. State Department Art in Embassies program, under whose aegis Knot had been placed in Israel, was present the other day in the studio when I uncrated it. As I raised it to its full height over our heads, we heard loud cracks. The material wedged into a solid cradle at its base, ballast to prevent its tipping, must have been shattered by the force of its fall. To judge from the scars denting its pure yellow, white and black encircling colors, it probably dropped at so tipped an angle that it hit the floor twice. The Art in Embassies representative remarked that the Tel Aviv embassy has a marble floor. In any case, the internal damage is, for a variety of structural reasons, irreparable.
I have never been able to detach myself sufficiently to prevent a feeling of having been hurt myself when my work is damaged. I use the money I receive for restoration to make new work, but I never stop rather anxiously holding all my own work intact in my mind, hoping for its safety. In Knot‘s case, this attachment was augmented by the fact that it had traveled in a foam-lined bed inside a wooden crate beautifully made by an old friend. He had for many years packed my work. Last December, he was killed, senselessly gunned down in the street, instantly bereft of both dignity and life in yet another of the wanton murders that now characterize our urban area. His crate was perfect; it stands in my studio reminding me of him, and of Knot as it will never be again. [pp. 159-60]