From The Collection Of… 6 in a series – Wendell Castle, Ghost Clock, 1985, Smithsonian American Art Museum

From The Collection Of… is a new series highlighting the amazing artwork of the world that is discoverable — and shareable — on the Internet. Most museum collections contain far too many pieces to exhibit in their galleries, so locating these images online may be one of the only ways of enjoying them. Over the next year or so, I will be sharing my favorites from collections large and small, far and wide. Follow My Word now to enjoy this journey through the — often hidden away — world of art. 


A long time ago – back in 1998 — I had the opportunity to spend 2 weeks in Washington, DC while my wife worked on a project for ABC’s Nightline program. This meant I had a lot of time to fill with my then 5-month-old son, so I decided to do something I had always wanted to do. Spend my time visiting as many Smithsonian museums as possible. The Renwick Gallery sits next to Blair house, almost directly across the street from The White House. It was close to our hotel, too, so we spent a few hours there one day. Several pieces of art amazed me that day, including this one, Ghost Clock. Even when in its presence it takes some moments to figure out what it is all about. Only on close inspection and reading the nearby label did you discover that it was not a clock draped in a sheet, but rather a solid wood carving! This is an artwork that has stayed with me for years (including another piece from the Renwick that I will highlight in a future “In the collection…”) post. A photo really doesn’t do the piece complete justice. When you see it in person the effect is so striking as to knock your thinking for a loop. – Douglas

From The Collection Of... 6 in a series - Wendell Castle, Ghost Clock, 1985, Smithsonian American Art Museum

From The Collection Of... 6 in a series - Wendell Castle, Ghost Clock, 1985, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Wendell Castle, Ghost Clock, 1985, bleached Honduras mahogany, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, 1989.68, © 1985, Wendell Castle

At first glance Ghost Clock appears to be a grandfather clock hidden under a white sheet. However, a closer look reveals a masterful deception: this entire sculpture was hand-carved from a single block of laminated mahogany. With its meticulous detail, Castle re-created in wood the contours of soft, supple cloth, then completed the illusion by bleaching the ​“drapery” white and staining the base of the ​“clock” a walnut brown. This work is the last in a series of thirteen clocks the artist created in the 1980s; unlike the others, it lacks an inner mechanism. Its haunting stillness and silence suggest eternity–the absence of time.

Connections: Contemporary Craft at the Renwick Gallery, 2019



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