About an hour north of Manhattan, in the heart of New York State's Hudson Highlands, lies Manitoga, the house, studio, and 75-acre woodland garden of mid-century designer Russel Wright. In the nearly 40 years since Wright's death, Manitoga has become a place to celebrate good design for living in creative harmony with nature through tours, programs, and events. Last year, an Artist Residency program was initiated at the National Historic Landmark, once an abandoned quarry restored by Wright to a place of extraordinary beauty.
It is within that context that Stephen Talasnik, the 2015 Resident Artist, created Sanctuary, a large-scale installation of woven reed structures that float upon the site's Quarry Pool. "I had never been to Manitoga before, but I responded immediately to it," says Talasnik. "And the thing that cinched it for me was a walk through the house, which is joined at the hip with the natural environment."
The New York City-based Talasnik, known mainly for his intricate drawings of organic forms, only began doing sculpture in 2001. His three-dimensional work, however, is not based on drawings. "I don't anticipate what they will look like," he admits. "It is improvised. And even if it appears geometrical, there's no mathematics involved."
Inspired by the Japanese marionette art form known as Bunraku, Talasnik crafted several floating pieces, one as large as 24 feet in diameter, out of reed and bamboo with black footings made from the same type of buoyant foam used in rescue equipment. "That's the beauty of it," says Talasnik. "They look like light, leafy structures, but they can withstand hurricanes." As for the visitor experience, Talasnik hopes his work is a dialogue between the man-made and the natural, and has the capacity to slow people down—"to appreciate nature more."
Sanctuary is on view through November 9, 2015.