Sculpture: Invisible Operations
Artist: Karen McCoy
Karen McCoy is an Associate Professor at the Kansas City Art Institute. She has created site-specific environmental sculpture across the United States and in Europe for more than two decades. For more information, call Karen at 816-802-3413.
Karen McCoy, 1999
"Invisible Operations asserts my certainty in the ongoing presence of unseen, but nonetheless tangible processes and their effect on our lives. Geological formation, for example, takes place every day under our feet and all around us. Local geology, as it underlies the site, is a generating force in the project.
Indigenous South Carolina red earth, fortified with a small percentage of cement, has been compacted into geometric forms. Ramming red soil into compact, successive layers creates solid structures that reference layered geologic formation. Since ramming earth requires no external structure, beyond the molds for construction, the solid red earth blocks appear to have simply emerged from the topography of the site. Geometric form is a metaphor for human transformation of land - the way we grid, divide and construct as we live on the landscape.
The sculpture site is a diverse area, that includes an open woods, a meandering creek, a wildflower meadow and a deeply cut ravine. Native species grow here along with European honeysuckle, Chinese privet, and Japanese kudzu. These, along with sections of old barbed-wire fences, provide evidence of previous human presence in the area. In order to construct the project, a temporary grid was staked out over the entire location with its major axis parallel to one of the fences. Fragments of this construction grid have been planted in a fine-bladed mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonica). In a few years this barely visible grid will grow to re-establish geometric structure as a tangible presence. Purple-leafed European beech trees planted near the rammed-earth blocks will mature to mark the position of the rammed earth blocks as they slowly erode. They will add new color to the forest and extend the adjacent American Beech grove. Thus the project employs natural processes and indigenous materials in combination with invented processes and imported materials.
Walking, observing and remembering are key to the conception and experience of Invisible Operations. To see the whole sculpture one must traverse the site and reconstruct it over time and in memory. The blocks, plants and site will change over the years as they are continuously shaped and reshaped by processes of weather, growth, and human interaction."