Weekly Update (Part 1) – Windmills!

This week’s Weekly is the Spring Guide issue and has my round-up of what’s to see this Spring as well as my art page article on Dayton Castleman‘s “Tilting at Giants” at the Broad Street Ministry. I’ll put the Spring Guide piece in another post, coming up in a minute. Here’s the link to the art page. And below is the copy with pictures (from Castleman’s blog — my attempt to photograph the piece failed totally!).

Blowing in the Wind
Dayton Castleman’s church installation evokes both religious and nonreligious belief systems.

Installation shot in the Broad St. Ministries. As with all installations, it’s hard to get a true sense of it in a photograph. Castleman said late afternoon when the windmills catch the sun coming in through the west window is an especially good time to see them.

Five months after artist Dayton Castleman had a vision of 12 windmills floating overhead, their arms turning in a breeze, those windmills-minus the breeze and the spinning arms-are installed in the rafters of the Broad Street Ministry, where they’re indeed a vision of improbability.

“Tilting at Giants,” as the long-term site-specific commission is called, is a nicely metaphorical addition to a church space already loaded with references to ships, lambs, spirits, wind, fire and belief. Those who understand the references to the Pentecostal wind and the 12 apostles waiting to receive it will read those stories into the piece. Others who know Don Quixote’s tilting at windmills (or the sword of Damocles story) will understand the piece in the context of belief systems in general. Either way, it’s plenty evocative and open enough to be appreciated by a wide audience.

Detail of the piece.

I talked with Castleman recently. The artist, 30, is a lay minister in the Coalition for Christian Outreach (and no, he says, that’s not a right-wing PAC), and a New Orleans native and trained painter who came to Philadelphia in 2001.

He’s the first artist commissioned to make a long-term site-specific work for the Broad Street Ministry, an ecumenical church. Funding for the piece came from private donations raised by William Golderer, the church’s pastor who, Castleman says, had the brainstorm to get serious contemporary art into the church. (Costs for materials were covered but there was no artist’s fee.)

Nice Photoshopped image of the piece that is on the postcard announcement.

While the artist says he panicked initially about the technical aspects of hanging 12 10-foot-tall windmills-each weighing 30 pounds-in the church’s rafters, he figured it out with some engineering advice. He installed the decorative windmills (made by Amish manufacturer Dave Wingard) with help from friends and one paid assistant, Andrew Kowal, a former University of the Arts student.

Castleman’s first large sculptural installation was in 2005 at Eastern State Penitentiary. “The End of the Tunnel” is 600 feet of red-painted steel pipe that snakes through the cellblocks like a virtual escape route, and is currently on view at the prison.

Another detail shot.

Castleman is the founder of the Church Studios in Fairmount. (See their blog and see Libby’s post of her visit to the Church Studios.) Serious about art and about his ministry, he’s applying to M.F.A. programs around the country. For a trained painter, he’s batting 1.000 as a sculptor, and says he began making sculpture after a personal medical crisis in 2001 and the events of 9/11 caused him to want to make solid objects-something substantial in light of how insubstantial life felt.

Castleman is married to dancer Karen Castleman (they have a 15-month-old daughter) and says he “grew up” in the Presbyterian church. Indeed his talk is peppered with words about sacred space, scripture and spirituality. But his art, both here and at the prison, is engaged with the greater world, and because of that his pieces are successful public art.

“Tilting at Giants: An Installation by Dayton Castleman”
Broad Street Ministry, 320 S. Broad St. 215.917.2251.