By F. Lennox Campello
Sometimes that search comes from friends and other artists, always eager to help to point out something or someone who’s caught their eye.
“You should take a look at Sedi Pak’s work,” said my friend Richard in an email.
And I did.
In Jungian psychology, racial memories are those memories, feelings, and ideas inherited from all of our ancestors. Those memories are passed down into our collective minds as part of a DNA attempt to teach us what our ancestors learned and saw. In theory, inside our brain we have recorded everything that our ancestors saw, felt, smelled, touched, etc.
According to my recent National Geographic DNA test, I’m almost 5% Denisovan and Neanderthal and thus have a long list of ancestors who even pre-date Homo Sapiens!
When I first came across Sedi Pak’s sculptures, part of that racial memory started a synaptic firing chain reaction inside my head that made me “remember” her three dimensional work as something, perhaps even something living that I had seen before.
OK, I’m pushing it there; but the work certainly caught my attention, and so I called her and talked to her on the phone.
“As a painter for over 13 years,” noted Pak when I eventually reached her in her Los Angeles area studio and asked her to describe her sculptural work, “one day I found myself unable to communicate what I can best describe as ‘negative air.’”
Like most great art, it all started on paper as a drawing, with multiple organic forms twisting and visually resisting the inability to leave the surface of the paper, almost as two-dimensional trapped alien beings seeking escape to a third dimension.
That escape to another dimension was not easy: the first transformation into a three dimensional product took one year to build.
“It was really labor intensive,” says Pak. “There was a lot of engineering involved to make the sculptures struggle with gravity.” The forms that came out of drawings and transformed into large wooden sculptures, with a central metal core to help defy gravity, are quite impressive.
The symbiosis of wood and metal from that first year’s work, and the months that followed, are a visceral triumph of both the physical challenges involved in creating them, as well as the intellectual muscle that led to them.
As a result, the Sedi Pak’s quest to explore the “negative air” has evolved into works of art that almost demand, perhaps require, that the viewer walk around that negative space around them, and reach a tentative hand to touch them. I suspect that hand, primed by thousands of years of Jungian memory, will be ready to jerk back, if the figure “moves.”
Where does this work’s seminal beginning come from? What is the lever that opened a conduit in her mind and regenerated an undulating form that seeks tactical attention?
And in those forms our brain sees what a wide-eyed Jacques Cousteau might have seen growing out of volcanic and magmatic creations in seldom visited underwater hot springs that spew super-heated water into the deep oceans off the coast of Mexico and make the Gulf dark floor grow into Sedi Pak sculptures.
“I want people to touch them,” says Pak. And since the physicality of her work demands hundreds of hours of sanding, and also terminal and unplanned explorations into methods to preserve the wood from which they are assembled, her quest is yet evolving.
But the result is a clear and memorable success for this accomplished and multi-talented artist. Pak’s sculptures have not only punched the solar plexus of our minds, but in doing so they have sprinkled us with a rare gift that spans both the visual and tactile senses.
I hope that she figures out all the remaining questions, so that when these sculptures are showcased in a museum or gallery, the wall text will say: “Go ahead… touch them.”
See Sedi Pak’s works online at http://www.sedipak.net.`