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Temporary Art


I guess when you look at the really big picture (the one that has a billion-year timeline), all art is fragile and subject to decay, and therefore temporary. But the whole concept of intentionally temporary art is very intriguing to me. My first experience with it was many years ago when I went to a museum to see Tibetan Buddhist monks creating a sand mandala. They spent several weeks meditatively “painting” this huge spiritual circle with colored sand – slowly and carefully – and then when it was finished (and it was so gorgeous!), they destroyed it and moved on. A great Buddhist lesson in non-attachment and impermanence, I guess.

The photo at the top is part of the hiking trail at the NC Museum of Art park and when you walked along this path, you would come to this huge sculpture called “To See Jennie Smile” by Steven Siegel.


Not sure what the name means, but this thing always made me smile. For one, when you’d glimpse it from a distance through the woods, it looked like some kind of enormous beehive. And also, my nephews went wild the first time they saw it – they loved it too. It’s just a very cool sight, and we visited it many times.

The sculpture was made of several tons of newspaper (the Raleigh News and Observer, to be specific, a paper I used to subscribe to before the Internet came along). The boys loved the fact that when you got close, you could still read some text on the paper. Here are the boys checking it out~


Installed in the Museum Park in 2006, the sculpture was intentionally temporary since of course, paper left out in the elements is going to rot. I love the playfulness of putting it in the woods surrounded by trees, since paper comes from trees, and I love the whole concept of giving the wood pulp back to Mother Nature.

Even though I knew it was temporary, I imagined that it would slowly sink and rot away, and I didn’t expect it to be quite so short-lived. But last week, they had to demolish it because it had started to lean and had become too dangerous. The museum posted photos of the demolition on their Flickr site. I’m going to miss it!

A photo taken in winter when there were no leaves on the trees~


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Comments (7)

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, that's a really unique looking art sculpture. It's pretty huge. That's so cool that your nephews can still read the text on the paper. That was interesting reading about the temporary artwork created by those buddhist monks. I can kind of understand their point. Art imitates life almost. I love the concept you pointed out about giving the wood pulp back to mother nature.

Thanks so much for sharing more of your photos on this wonderful North Carolina Museum of Art. Have a great evening.


This is really interesting! I think as it rots each phase will be another form of art in itself! And, as far as temporary art goes, I like street art myself. Some artists (most of the great street artists are in Europe) do it full time, only to have their art removed/painted over at a later date.


I find it really difficult to think of art as temporary, but the example of the sand mandala is very compelling!

I'm impressed that your
nephews were so taken with the newspaper sculpture.

Sandra, there's a good documentary about the Buddhist sand mandalas (and other things) called "Wheel of Time." In one part, the Dalai Lama helps make one of the mandalas.

Kind of sad seeing the demolition pictures. It was very interesting art, temporary or not!

Nancy, I was kind of sad when I saw those photos too. If I'd known it was coming down, I would have visited it one more time to say goodbye. :)

Wow! Amazing! Even though it was temporary, your photos helped to document its existence. I wonder if another one will be built.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 26, 2010 2:16 PM.

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