The Past Looms Large

Patterson Webster
The Past Looms Large   2017 – 2018
Corrugated tin, cement, acrylic letters, wooden chair
Collection of the artist

A series of six corrugated tin columns ranging from 8 to 12 feet in height flank a path that leads across a farm field towards an over-sized Adirondack chair.

The first column names the installation: The Past Looms Large. Nearby, the stump of a dead pine tree, five feet tall, is followed closely by a dead pine about fifty feet tall. The pines indicate the origin of classical Greek columns and establish the idea of a progression in time, but since the short stump died before the taller tree, the premise of the phrase, that the past looms large, is called into question.

The four columns that follow are arranged in pairs, while a fifth column stands next to the over-sized chair. The first pair, labeled at their base as Doric and Ionic in reference to classical orders of Greek architecture, parallel the progression of Geek column design. The second pair are labelled Ironic and Iconic, non-conforming names that challenge the anticipated order. The final column is unnamed, again confounding expectations.

The columns’ height also disrupts prior certainties. The first column stands 8 feet tall; the first pair are 10 feet tall while the second pair are 12 feet tall. This difference in height reverses the expectation that objects that seem to be identical will appear taller when close and shorter when farther away. Here, instead of appearing shorter, the pairs of columns in the distance both are and look taller, a difference accentuated by their location on a higher piece of ground. This difference in height calls normal perception into question and simultaneously re-establishes the notion (earlier called into question) that the past looms large.

The columns line a path such as priests and worshippers followed in ancient Greece when approaching a temple for ceremonial worship. Here, the path leads to an over-sized Adirondack chair that dwarfs anyone standing beside it or sitting in it, reinforcing the confusion between actual and anticipated sizes.