“Familiar artwork installed in sculpture garden, just in time for gala,” The Advocate

After a restoration in the artist's studio, Lin Emery's sculpture 'Wave' reflects its surroundings of trees and sky in the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in City Park. (Advocate staff photo by John McCusker)

By R. Stephanie Bruno, via The Advocate

When New Orleans Museum of Art guests celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden Friday night, Lin Emery’s work, “Wave,” will be on proud display in its new setting.

The kinetic work by the nationally recognized New Orleans sculptor became an instant icon when it was installed in a reflecting basin in front of the museum in time for the 1988 Republican National Convention. Recently, the need to rebuild the 100-year-old basin meant moving the sculpture requiring museum staff to work with Emery to determine the perfect site for it.

“When the issue came up, it was hard to imagine the piece any place but where it had been for 25 years,” said Lisa Rotondo-McCord, a member of the museum’s curatorial staff. “But it looks perfectly at home in its new site.”

According to Rotondo-McCord, the placement of the sculpture in a pool surrounded by nature has brought out qualities that were not shown to the best advantage in the former location. The pool reflects the sculpture as it moves, and the metal surface of the sculpture picks up color from leaves and grass.

“Lin works with natural forms and utilizes natural processes — wind, water — to make her kinetic sculptures move the way they do,” Rotondo-McCord said. “Now that the work is set in a more intimate environment, surrounded by trees and grass and water, and those qualities can be better appreciated.”

Rotondo-McCord explained that Emery and her team took the sculpture to her studio, took it apart and completely restored it. They removed water lines, repaired the mechanical workings responsible for its movement and renewed its finishes.

“We wanted it to be reinstalled in time for ‘LOVE in the Garden,’ but we didn’t think it was possible because we thought the conservation would take a lot longer than it did,” Rotondo-McCord said. “Lin and her crew worked so fast that we got it back about a week ago and now it is in place in time for the event.”

The timing of the re-installation is especially felicitous, as Emery is one of five artists being honored at “LOVE in the Garden” on Sept. 27, and because her newest works will be the subject of a NOMA exhibition which will open in early November at the time of the Odyssey Ball.

Emery has lived in New Orleans since 1951, when she returned to the states after studying in Paris at the Sorbonne and with Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine. According to Rotondo-McCord, Zadkine played a major role in Emery’s development as a sculptor and one of his works is among the 63 in the sculpture garden.

“You can now stand next to his work, ‘La Poetesse,’ and look out at Lin’s ‘Wave,’ ” she said.

“Lin was also friends with George Rickey who was chair of the Newcomb art department in the ’50s, and one of his kinetic sculptures in nearby Lin’s. There is something very powerful about seeing these works together, because of the interconnectedness of the artists.”