In February 2013, Seattle artist Roger Feldman began a residency at Laity Lodge during which he would construct a permanent, site-specific art installation. His arrival in the Canyon marked the culmination of several months of planning that were themselves preceded by several years of informal dreaming about the possibility of such a collaboration.
After a visit in fall 2012, Feldman presented seven scale-model maquettes from which the final design was selected. The installation would be made from local stone and would reside in a quiet upland clearing, an easy five-minute walk from Laity Lodge’s Great Hall.
Feldman chose dimensions that were derived from field notes and measurements of features he found in the Canyon—heights and spans both man-made and natural. The structure’s position in the field was based upon both precise latitudinal coordinates as well as the trajectory of the sun.
The ambitious scale of the installation (eventually reaching over 15 feet into the air) required the assistance of local stonemasons to work alongside Feldman. Fortunately, the recent construction at the Headwaters site meant that both masons and Texas limestone were readily available. The work began.
The installation rose incrementally. The artist’s vision demanded a careful consideration of the placement of each stone. And each stone’s curved face, in turn, called for precise chiseling. In late May 2013, Feldman applied his final chisel marks before declaring the work complete.
Throughout the process a short film was being produced. Intended to serve as an artistic companion to Feldman’s work, the film yields rich visual insights into how such a space comes to be. A secondary documentary style short film was also made and includes interviews with the artist.
The space is offered as a gift to be experienced by guests of Laity Lodge. It stands as a quiet space for contemplation. It is also a perfect space for conversation—with a friend or a small group. The installation’s gently curving lines welcome visitors, inviting them inside and guiding their movement through it. What results is a beautiful place for stillness. The field itself reveals its connectedness with the main Laity Lodge campus—viewers can see the rocky bluff overlooking the Frio, though the river itself is only suggested. Also unseen nearby is the Laity Lodge Quiet House, whose guests are also afforded easy access to Feldman’s installation.
Laity Lodge thanks the dozens of patrons who supported this project.
by Roger Feldman
Threshold is an interactive site-specific permanent installation and was derived from a series of maquettes (scale models), all utilizing circles and cylindrical spaces. The resulting concept began with the form and led to the content for a viewer moving through the space.
Threshold is an arrangement of architectural looking components that create an internal conversation about the individual and community. While the form cannot be reduced to a utilitarian structure, it does invite physical exploration and interaction. The scale of the piece is intentional, derived from existing proportions of the structures at Laity Lodge. There is an internal mathematical harmony between the elements that manifest themselves in the resultant forms. The diameter of the three curved walls ranges from 6’ in the tower, to 15 feet to the connecting wall, and 12’ for the independent wall. All are derivatives of three, and the height of each wall is also a derivative of three: 9’ to 12’ for the semi-circular walls, and 15’ for the tower. If one takes the 3’ height change for each of the large walls, that equals 6’, which is the inside diameter of the tower. This internal mathematical harmony resonates with Trinitarian thinking that began with the early Christians and ultimately came into intentional architectural thinking in Europe during the middle ages. While this contemporary form is not functional, it is symbolic.
This symbolic arrangement of space and form faces east, almost in line with the same parallel as the city of Jerusalem. The lone window in the tower faces almost due south. Light travels down toward a single seat in the tower during the day and at certain times of the year, will rest directly on the seat. The piece cannot be categorized without physical interaction and curiosity will bring viewers inside to explore and discover. The grand scale may be associated with the experience of walking into a hotel Lobby as opposed to walking into a bedroom within an average home. The symbolic use of scale connects with how Laity Lodge is scaled, incorporating the same proportions. This piece acts as a symbol for how Laity Lodge is perceived from the outside world. Known for its hospitality, openness, and graciousness to outsiders, both allow internal exploration and growth, and have become a safe haven for spiritual exploration and contemplation.
My intent was to create an internally harmonious work that symbolized the ethos of Laity Lodge. The resulting form is organic, yet geometric, inviting, safe, and allows for individual and communal interaction. The experience inside Threshold cannot be reduced to words, but it can resonate with the experience of being at Laity Lodge for a variety of similar explorations and interactions. The spiritual dimension contained in both, link them in the hearts and minds of the participants. Threshold requires a decision to enter in, and once inside, there is the possibility of an expansive experience.