The work of the artist Anya Gallaccio (British, born 1963 in Paisley, Scotland) is rooted in nature and entropy, embracing the beauty in time’s progression and the inevitable demise of all living things.
Trees, flowers, clay, fruit, ice, sugar, and chocolate have all appeared as regular protagonists in her work, including a carpet of 10,000 flowers left to wilt on a museum floor; a room whose walls the artist painted in chocolate and then invited viewers to lick its sweet but precarious surfaces; and a thirty-two-ton minimalist grid of ice cubes melting in a nineteenth-century water pumping station in east London. While Gallaccio graduated from Goldsmiths College in London in the late 1980s, during the short but fertile period that birthed Young British Artist cohorts Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, and Sarah Lucas, among others, her work departed shortly thereafter from her colleagues into radical materiality. As the artist has said, “I choose the material and have the idea,” she said, “but ultimately the process is a kind of dialogue between me and the material.” With nods to historical movements from the 1960s and 1970s, including Arte Povera, Land art, Conceptual art, and Minimalism, Gallaccio’s work is unique in its conceptual temporality and its site-specific intent, whereby the artist sources a region for its unique geographical characteristics and reflects these qualities within a particular work.
to see if time was there, 2017, a new, site-specific commission for The Contemporary Austin’s Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria, takes its title from a nineteenth-century poem by Emily Dickinson. This work combines Gallaccio’s ongoing interest in historic “mammoth” trees—enormous sequoias in Calaveras County, California, whose destruction for timber at the end of the nineteenth century led to contemporary fascination with the large stumps as oddities and natural wonders—with her research into Texas’s rich geologic legacy and variety of stone. Taking a 1:1 scan of the base of a massive sequoia tree in Wales—among the largest examples of its kind in the U.K.—Gallaccio worked with a local fabricator in central Texas to source and cut an array of stones to form this outsize tree stump. The artist intends the sculpture, sited in the remote wooded area of the lower grounds at Laguna Gloria and recalling petrified wood in its textures, to be an “excavated relic or fantastical object,” one that is “more sci-fi than scientific.” Gallaccio invites viewers to stand, sit, play, or lie on the tree stump’s colorful inlaid surface, a lived aspect that reinforces the work’s commentary on the complex interaction between geologic time and human interventions in nature.