Art of the Month Club: John Baker
The Art of the Month Club is a regular feature of the WCMA blog. Each month we invite someone special to write about a work from our collection. Find your own favorite WCMA artwork by searching our collection database. You never know, we may invite you to be the next Art of the Month Club member. Today, please welcome John Baker, Artistic Producing Associate at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.
When Williamstown Theatre Festival relocates to the Berkshires each summer, our team takes over the Greylock Quad section of Williams College. Right smack in the middle of the quad is a fairly substantial metal sculpture that—up until this year—I knew little-to-nothing about. It’s fairly safe to say that few people affiliated with the Festival knew much about the sculpture up until this year. It’s not a work of art that calls much attention to itself; the piece’s camouflage-like coloring allows it to blend into the landscape. But most of the Williamstown Theatre Festival team took special note of the sculpture this summer as a conservation team from the Williamstown Art Conservation Center spent weeks—camped out in our backyard—completely restoring the sculpture to its original state.
It was during this restoration process—which you can catch glimpses of here and here—that I became curious enough to hunt down the name of the sculpture and the artist via WCMA’s online database. The metallic structure—composed of welded pieces of abstract shapes—is by internationally renowned sculptor Isaac Witkin (1936-2006), who was born in South Africa and spent part of his career working at Bennington College with a community of artists known as “the Green Mountain boys.” His piece in the Greylock Quad is called Succoth (1975), presumably a reference to the Hebrew word sukkah (literally “booth” or “tabernacle”), which refers to the temporary booths that the children of Israel lived in (see Leviticus 23:42).
So why am I sharing my experience of discovering a piece of art that’s been staring me in the face for years? When you get used to a particular landscape, you sometimes take for granted the beautiful things around you. Watching the conservation team restore Succoth from my office window reminded me to slow down and appreciate the beautiful things in my life that I pass by every day.
Above image: Isaac Witkin (American, 1936-2006), Succoth, 1975, steel. Gift of Jacques and Donatella Lennon.