Dec. 13, 2011Vol. 42, Issue 3

Voice-over: A Curtain of Glass

Sculptor Sheri Simons, Art and Art History, was commissioned in 2009 to create a two-story interior sculpture in glass for the entrance lobby of the new Los Gatos Library, scheduled to open on Feb. 11, 2012. The installation of her two-story glass curtain, Voice-over is now complete.

Voice-over is a two-story glass curtain that feels as though its surface holds layers of text suspended in mid-air,” said Simons. “The text is used like a marking tool to compose a drawing that reflects on the sound, cadence, and pattern of what we hear when we use language.”

voice-over glass installation closeupEach view of the installation reveals a different sense of the whole, said Simons. “Much like reading a text, one’s insight changes as new points of view (viewing) are created. The curtain can be read from front, side, and back. The viewer is conducting his or her own experience of the environment. It is not as important to read each discrete letter as it is to see and ‘hear’ layered voices that come from different disciplines and cultures.”

Simons, who teaches sculpture in the Department of Art and Art History, graduated from Cranbrook Academy of Art with a Master of Fine Arts in 1985. She received a Japan-US Friendship Commission/National Endowment for the Arts Creative Artist Exchange Fellowship and had a residency in Japan from June to December 2006. She was nominated for the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Competition Grant in 2008 and was awarded a California Arts Council Visual Artist Fellowship in 2003. Other grants include an NEA grant in 1986, numerous Faculty Development Grants from CSU, Chico 1993–2011, and a Michigan Council for the Arts grant in 1981.

Simons has received three commissions from the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission: a Kinetic mag-lev sculpture in the Children's Reading Room and an outdoor sculpture in marble and slate for the Carmichael Public Library in 2006; bronze water sculptures and wall-hung bronzes, Theater of the Absorbed, in 1998; and a seven-piece sculpture, Labor and Delivery: The Merits of Browsing, for the city of Sacramento Central Library in 1991. Other commissions include tetherheads, part of an outdoor sculpture competition for Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 2000 and a mixed-media sculpture, The Nature of Things, for the King County Arts Commission in Kent Wash, 1997.

Simons has had numerous solo exhibitions, the most recent being for the Gallery IMA in Seattle, Wash., slant.pause. (repeat). She has been a selected artist in dozens of group shows, most recently Cranbrook Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; Reading Art Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania, for Hot House: Expanding the Field of Fiber at Cranbrook 1977–2007; and Fukushima Biennale: City-wide exhibition of international artists, Fukushima, Japan, 2006.

The following text is permanently posted on a plaque next to the piece at the library: 

Voice-over 2011

Pencil drawings translated and sandblasted into half-inch, low-iron glass. Hand colored.

The surface of Voice-over is incised with many graphical languages that speak over each other, interrupt, and converse within the quiet of the library. The glass can be “read” simultaneously as aural and visual, leaving open the possibility of multidirectional reading that can start or end at any point along the planes. The ability to understand the writing as a logical text is secondary to sensing the rhythm of written language. 

The graphical languages of Voice-over include:

  • Braille
  • Handwriting samples
  • The Naxi written language
  • A schematic for connecting a washing machine
  • George Crumb’s music score Makrokosmos
  • Blown-up, shrunken, and otherwise distorted automatic writing by the artist
  • The first paragraph from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
  • Composer/inventor Trimpin’s scores for Picnics and CIP
  • Seven words with thirty-three letters by Brad Thiele
  • A chart that depicts the thermal conductivity of tungsten
  • Part of the Persian word for whole
  • Frei Otto’s diagram to illustrate stresses in membranes
  • Stokes’ Theorem
  • Circuit schematic for a theremin (an early electronic musical instrument)
  • Diagram of a fly cleaning itself while on an overhead projector’s projection stage
  • Phonetic spelling of the word speech sounds
  • Two covering (topological) maps

Note: The photos accompanying this article were taken during installation.

voice-over glass installation

—Kathleen McPartland, Public Affairs and Publications