the four elements / April Wagner / December 2003

‘the four elements’ is one sculpture in four parts. It was a site specific commission for Pfizer Inc., Global Research and Development in 2003.

“I use a special approach to developing my sculptures for site specific commissions. This approach is an integral part of the final work. I first like to consider where I am at in my artistic journey; what ideas I am exploring, and techniques I am developing. I then try to apply these principals to the salient features of the project site and environment. This method of approach is designed to seamlessly integrate my work with its future environment without compromising the integrity of either.

The concept of ‘the four element’ as a sculpture in the niches of the Round Interaction Conference Room was immediately self evident to me after viewing the space. This was partially due to the fact that the room is an important center of advanced thinking in the evolution of a science based company. Also, it was a response to the overall celestial quality of the round room and floating ceiling. One of my goals was that the sculpture should add to the room yet not distract from the business that was being attended to there; giving impetus to the creative thinking process by visual stimulation that engages the viewer back into their environment/discussion instead of removing them from it.

In developing ‘air’, ‘water’, ‘fire’, and ‘earth’ I wanted to capture the qualities inherent in each, creating four separate entities, or parts, that would come together to make one whole. Using color or lack of, visual weight, motion, and the placement within the parameters of the niche to convey the special characteristics of each element and would resound with the viewer, the materials, and the environment. The sculpture is also oriented within the Round Interaction Conference Room so that each element is in line with its corresponding direction; ‘air’ is placed in the northwest niche, ‘fire’ in the northeast niche, ‘water’ in the southwest niche, and ‘earth’ in the southeast niche.

Many exciting and intriguing factors become evident with site specific projects. I relish in the challenge of exerting control and resolve over these factors. One of the most significant aspects of the Pfizer project was the size of the niches. The niches were only 18″ in depth, with a height of almost 6′. this size easily lends itself to a two-dimensional piece of art, but blown glass is three-dimensional. making forms that adhered to such narrow depth, but yet could address such a sizable height was very challenging.

My exploration of glass as a molten material has focused intently on the ability of this material to contain/reflect emotion, movement, or feeling. for this project I worked with the glass, setting up the blown form in a defined number of steps to create a basic shape. I then allowed the properties of physics to act on this shape, with some subtle manipulations on my part. This entails combining centrifugal force, centripetal force, gravity, temperature, and speed. My goal is not to contrive, but to capture the piece at the exact moment of its pinnacle of actualization. The power of this inherently sensitive and sensuous material can easily be nullified by the overt hand of the maker.

I then use these individual parts to assemble into each ‘element’. I will often make 100’s of these parts, sometimes using less than half of what I make in the final ‘element’. Having these extra parts allows me to approach the assembly process with great flexibility and choice. These are key aspects in creating the fluid movement of line and form that gives the finished sculpture synergy.

I am of the opinion, after viewing the finished sculpture, that ‘the four elements’ sculpture has met and surpassed all of my intended goals. The harmonious marriage of the sculpture into its environment has afforded me the pleasure of feeling that this is one of my most resolved works of art to date.”

A case study of this project can be downloaded. Pfizer Case Study – commissioning site-specific installations

Air measures 32″l x 14″d x 32″h
Earth measures 32″l x 14″d x 32″h
Fire measures 32″l x 14″d x 46″h
Water measures 32″l x 14″d x 36″h