Nicolas van Krijdt

Heavy Metal

Nicolas van Krijdt’s ‘Inland Ocean’ not for those afraid of the water

By Gretchen Giles

Students wandering the dry, brineless floor of Santa Rosa Junior College’s Herold Mahoney Library on the Petaluma campus may be surprised to learn that they’re actually navigating an ocean. But when they look up from their studies, the sealine is clearly demarcated in a stream of pages from a disemboweled reference book.

The parchment-and-string vessels that float its airy waters hang high, borne up to the firmament on tall, highly polished steel stands. And sometimes, when the artist is there, this buoyant project sings an eerie cello sound that harkens the high chirps of whale and dolphin calls, the deep sad bass of sonar, and the metallic rasp of airplane wire.

For his conceptual installation The Inland Ocean, exhibiting through Dec. 20 at the Petaluma SRJC library, Petaluma sculptor Nicolas van Krijdt has created an experience in which he’s aimed to stimulate every sense except smell–and that’s a “yet,” according to van Krijdt’s own laughing admission.

Primarily a minimalist sculptor, van Krijdt shines very brightly right now, having just finished a prestigious commission for Santa Rosa’s new Vineyard Creek Hotel, Spa, and Conference Center, and an arch for Petaluma’s McNear Park. He’s also just finished six months designing a prototype for the Pentagon monument to 9-11 featuring an obelisk tragically tilted from the earth, angled so that each Sept. 11 at 9:37am, the time the Pentagon was hit, the sun would strike a steel shadow. Though his design was ultimately not accepted, this maquette nonetheless lead van Krijdt further down his own thoughtful road to a deeper level in his work.

Meticulous in concept, construction, and finish, The Inland Ocean is designed to be both an homage to the library within which it sits and to rock us in the unconscious arms of the invisible sea that salts us all.

If this all sounds like heady stuff, that’s because it is.

The Mahoney Library features large, mullioned windows and curved inside arches. New housing subdivisions can be seen roughing the south field and a row of yellow-leafed trees mask the eastern side. On these windows’ sills, van Krijdt has very quietly placed his own houselike or chairlike vessels, reflecting his private, inside world against that which was constructed by humankind on the outside. The north wall is hung with his handsome encaustic panels, each featuring a dictionary definition for such verbs as “start,” “think,” “build,” and “see.”

The sealine itself is made solely from one ’60s-era reference book that patiently explains the countries then composing the United Nations. By a coincidence pleasing to van Krijdt, the book begins with Afghanistan and ends, due to space strictures on the Mahoney walls, with the Persian Gulf, both places often in today’s news.

Wherever mention is made on these pages of libraries or museums, van Krijdt has pinned the rasp of a long contiguous piece of string. From the linear “notation” of the strings’ progress, he and his studio assistant Joseph Ramey have composed music.

Using the arbitrary decision to highlight centers of art and learning through language to create music, van Krijdt–who with Ramey will perform his piece on Dec. 6–works instead with sound and form in order to reject standardized speech and linear thought. If the sea as an overall metaphor for nature is a beautiful, utterly ordered chaos that is perfect unto itself, why even rely on our ordinary constructs of communication? They’re flawed, cause confusion and unhappiness, and even prompt wars and death.

On Dec. 6, armed with cello bows, the pair will haul two special vessels, each formed in van Krijdt’s distinctive canoe shape, to the Mahoney. One is of finely burnished steel, so delicate that a hand’s rough sweat discolors it; the other is of thick, rusted, corporeal steel. Each is tightly strung with airplane wire, which is used both to hold the vessels together and to act as a musical string.

Utilizing the delicate one, van Krijdt will make music based on the wall strings’ notation; using the rusty one, Ramey will make music using the relentless march of an ordinary wall clock. Time is essential to nature, van Krijdt insists, yet this too is something that we strive to codify and contain with little success.

But what does all this nonlinear thought sound like? Dec. 6 awaits.

‘The Inland Ocean’ shows through Dec. 20 at the Herold Mahoney Library, SRJC Petaluma campus, 680 Sonoma Mountain Parkway. A special reception is slated for Friday, Dec. 6, from 5-7pm. Admission is free. Library hours are 8am-8pm. 707.778.3974.

From the November 28-December 4, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

© Metro Publishing Inc.

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