LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Copyright © 2009 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
Volume 55, No.2 - Summer 2009
Editor of this issue: Gražina Slavėnas.
Aleksandra Kasuba: Architectural Structures in New Mexico Desert
Stasys Goštautas (PhD) is the art editor of Lituanus and was recently awarded the Journalism Prize for 2008 by the Lithuanian Educational Council of USA, Inc.
Aleksandra Kasuba, who is well-known on the American artistic and architectural scene for her mosaics, sculptures and architectural designs, has lately switched from her famous round-shaped rooms to buildings in New Mexico, where she now resides.
Very few Lithuanian-born artists have left as much art in the United States as Aleksandra Kasuba. Her multifaceted talent ranges from sculpture to ceramics to mosaics to installations architectural in scale, and from “Shelters for the Senses” to the creation of an entire village.
She did decorative work for the New York Hilton Hotel – a 208 sq. ft. pebble mosaic (1963) – as well as murals for schools, churches and public buildings. Her public installations are executed in brick, granite, marble, or pebbles. Using a stretch fabric, she created sculptural environments – spaces that gave new life to old structures.
She calls most of her monumental works by the humble term “installations.”
include a structure
made of 30,000 sq. ft. of tensile fabric (commissioned by the U.S. Air
Force for the International Furniture Procurement Exhibit held in Paris
in 1981); a 4,000 sq. ft. granite wall in the World Trade Center, New
York (1986), destroyed in 2001; the 7,000 sq. ft. Old Post Office Plaza
in Washington, D. C. (1981); a 1,750 sq. ft. brick relief in New York
City; and, among others, a 1,000 sq. ft. brick relief for the Amherst
Metro Station in Buffalo, N.Y. (1983).
According to her own account, her
“Black Marble Mosaics,” in the Waddell Gallery in
City in 1966 opened the doors for everything that followed. In 1969,
she became interested in “Living Environments,”
Lithuanian are called buveinės.
Kasuba started her
explorations with a simple idea. Why, she asked some forty years ago,
does a room have to be square? How do I erase the 90° angle?
times of Sputnik and space satellites were still fresh in our minds
when, using a humble material – nylon fabric, she stretched
shape environments that appeared more at home on the moon than on
earth. In 1976, she had an exhibit called ”Fabric
Structures” in the prestigious Cranbrook Academy of Art
near Detroit, a student/teacher project on a large scale. The work she
produced in the Art-in-Science project (1977), sponsored by the
Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, was exhibited again in
the Esther M. Klein Art Gallery of the University City Science Center
under a new title “Shaping the Future”(1990). In
exhibition catalogue she defined her task as“(1) to explore
tension & compression dynamics in fabric membranes, (2) develop
self-supporting (hardened) fabric shells, and (3) develop soft weather
structures that would not resist rain but direct water away from the
area to be covered.” R. Buckmunster Fuller had two
the same Art-in-Science Projects, in 1981 and 1983.
Kasuba had lived and worked in Manhattan since 1963. In 2001, the environmental artist left New York City and moved to New Mexico to build experimental structures. She wanted to see whether an unconventional building method that she conceived in 1972 was feasible for erecting permanent curvilinear/sculptural walls at less cost than the methods presently in practice. From interior architectural design with tensile fabric structures, started some forty years ago in Manhattan, she went to exterior shell dwellings in the desert of New Mexico. She became not only an artist, but also the inventor of a futuristic building method, extending its possibilities in study models for buildings larger in scale than those she built in the desert.
In May of 2007, she completed a study model of a “Hotel and Resort Complex.” It consists of five buildings – an eighty-room hotel, convention facilities, an educational visitor center and a spa – which we reproduce here with a description provided by the artist. The study is in three parts: Design Concept, Building Complex, and Drawings. We introduce them here for the first time. Other projects, Rock Hill House (2002), Shell Dwellings (2003-2005), Private Residence (2006), Smart Village (2006-2007), and more, all unsolicited studies, can be seen on <www.kasubaworks.com>.
As an author of six books in English, Kasuba adds yet another art to her legacy. Her first book appeared in 2000; the most recent in 2008 – almost a book per year. This in addition to the architectural projects she produced in New Mexico is quite a legacy for the 86-year-old artist. I remember her last years in Manhattan, when she was not only taking care of her ill husband, a sculptor of note, but also attending classes in creative writing. Very few people have the talent to write in two languages.
Kasuba’s first book called Private Heresies (2000) is about the dynamics between emotion and feeling, rational and intellectual thought. Written over a span of thirty years, it reflects the dynamics of her creative energy. A second book, Child Ticking (2001), is the story of her remarkable childhood up to age nine.
Lituanus is very proud to introduce Kasuba’s latest works. She is not new to our journal. In 1960, Alexis Rannit wrote a short review and in 1973, the artist herself described “The Living Environment.”