Peek behind the white partition at Kirk Hopper Gallery and you see it: a shimmering waterfall of music wires, hundreds of them, cascading out along a horizontal line. Their polar tips crash into polished white porcelain rose stems that hang vertically, like pendulums filled with untapped kinetic force. You need to touch them the way a cat needs to bat at something dangly, but you don't.
"Inch by Inch, (to Laura Potter)" costs $7,000 and galleries don't have kitchens, so dish washing as repayment is highly unlikely.
Stop practicing self-restraint, Du Chau designed the piece for music. It's meant to be played like a harp. I watched nervously as the gallery coordinator walked over, I was worried that i would lose control and strum it. Luckilly, she did instead. Her arms reached out in a gentle embrace and she slid her fingertips through the rose-cast bases, like she was running her digits through porcelain hair. They clinked and bobbed; they knocked around. I felt so relieved.
I needed to know more about the man who made this stunning work that balanced organic and modern concepts with such grace. I shouldn't have been surprised that he is both an artist and a scientist.
Prior to relocating to the States in '81, Du Chau was raised in Vietnam. He studied medical sciences and still works in the field of pathology, but now has also accrued his Bachelor's and Master's of Fine Art at the New York State College of Ceramics. Now he follows both passions by moonlighting at Brookhaven College, guiding eager young artists.
While "Inch by Inch (to Laura Potter)" merges that lab sterility with warm ceramics, it stands firmly as an ode to his dear friend, and fellow artist Laura Potter. "Inch by Inch," explained Chau "is how Laura Potter made her art." He describes the miraculous detail, tedious if not so crushingly perfect, that she paid to every portion of her paintings. Towards the end of her struggle with her heart condition she could not complete her pieces without aid, so Chau lent his fingertips to her projects. Together, they worked until the end.
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According to Chau, Potter wasn't a showy woman. She didn't make art to be known. In fact, she rarely attended openings or showed her work at all, and because of that Chau worries that the world will never know the woman who created spectacular watercolors and played the piano so beautifully. He's also concerned that those who do know her, might forget her.
"Inch by Inch (To Laura Potter)" is an effort to keep her airy grace alive and moving, and for Chau that means that it will never be finished. An "infinite piece" he calls it; one that will continually be extended -- more piano wire, more porcelain rose stems. Roses, after all, were her favorite flower.
Du Chau's work will remain on display at Kirk Hopper Fine Art until February 11, so go play it. Now.