“Tower in Three,” a sculpture by Barbara Liotta on display in the Glen Echo Park Stone Tower Gallery, more than lives up to the challenge of creating art inspired by space.
Yet the Washington, D.C. artist, who works with stone as part of her creative process, said she spent a lot of time in the tower getting a feel for it before coming up with the idea for “Tower in Three.”
Glen Echo’s Stone Tower Gallery is just over 10 feet high with a diameter of 27 feet, 5 inches–a much smaller area than Liotta usually has for her work. “It was a uniquely challenging space,” Liotta said. “Generally, my work reaches for longer heights and larger spaces. It was very different and called for a different response.”
The gallery is a literal stone tower, so two-dimensional work is hard to hang, said Allison Mah, the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture’s assistant marketing and exhibits director. Still, the Partnership wanted to use the space.
In addition, Liotta noted, the tower “presents as a confusion of colors, lights, shadows, pipes and windows and is truncated by a false ceiling. With my installation, I tried to mirror the space with a deconstructed tower.”
Built in 1891, the tower is the oldest building on the Glen Echo campus, and the only remaining structure from the park’s early years as a Chautauqua. “A board member suggested [Liotta] because she thought she would be a really good fit,” Mah said.
Liotta is well-known in the area. In 2014, she was commissioned by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities to create nine monolithic sculptures for Legacy Memorial Park in Northeast Washington, honoring victims of the 2009 Metro crash. She has had installations at the Phillips Collection and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and her work is included in museums, embassies and private collections worldwide.
“As she mainly works in stone, her work was a natural for the Stone Tower,” said Laura Roulet who curated the exhibit. “Some of the features she picked up on are the shape of the tower, its history, the coloration of the stone, the irregular rough-hewn construction of the tower, and the proportions of the space.”
Liotta used shattered Brazilian granite suspended from cord to create a double cylinder hanging from the ceiling and placed a circle of the same stone on the gallery floor to reflect the space. “If you look at [the Brazilian granite] and the stone in the wall, both have the same resonance in color,” the artist pointed out.
Thereby, the work and the space are all part of a whole. “It’s all part of one piece,” Liotta said. “The inner circle reaches upward; the outer circle plunges downward and the separate bottom is the tower’s crashed echo across the floor.”
Of the completed work, Roulet said, “Taken all together, the stones on the wall, on the floor and in the air create a new sense of movement and proportion in the gallery.”
After hanging the main elements of the work and assembling the floor piece, Roulet said she and Liotta designed lighting to introduce shadows as another element of the work.
Mah said visitors like the installation, perhaps more so because it is such a departure from the park’s usual exhibits.
“Tower in Three,” presented by the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. through Sunday, March 5, at the Stone Tower Gallery, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo. Liotta will discuss her work at the Tower Gallery at 2 p.m. March 5. Visit https://glenechopark.org or call 301-634-2222. View this event on CultureSpotMC here.