New York-born Lin Emery (1926–2021) created kinetic sculptures inspired by the forms and rhythms of nature. Her materials and methods, however, were distinctly her own. Emery first studied sculpture under Ossip Zadkine at the Sorbonne in Paris. After returning to New York, she learned to weld and cast bronze at the Sculpture Center. In 1945, she moved to New Orleans where she refined her skills, notably setting up a welding studio inside her French Quarter apartment. Her neighbors apparently did not mind the noise; she later remarked, “…in New Orleans, I can do anything I please.”
Emery’s kinetic sculpture followed the pioneering work of Alexander Calder. Calder is credited with creating the first kinetic sculptures, which he called mobiles. Kinetic art is defined as art that either implies movement or is in motion. Emery’s kinetic work evolved over her more than sixty-year career from her early aquamobiles, which are propelled by water, to magnetmobiles, which move by magnetic force, to her mature works, which are powered by wind.
To visualize her wind-powered sculptures, Emery drew in space three-dimensionally with straws and cardboard before further developing her ideas in welded aluminum. As seen in the model for Anthem, Emery usually began small with lightweight aluminum sheets, making maquettes, or test versions, of her final large-scale sculptures. Ball bearings inserted into various elements of the sculpture’s form allow for ease of movement. She carefully measured and planned out the form’s balance points and orbits of motion, becoming intimate with its various moving combinations. Unlike the predictability of a machine, the completed sculpture dips and twirls freely and spontaneously in the atmosphere, propelled by the rhythms of the wind.
Lin Emery, Anthem (model), 2018. Polished aluminum, 30 x 18 x 18 inches. In recognition of Carol Gikas, longtime director of the Louisiana Art & Science Museum. Louisiana Art & Science Museum Collection, 2018.007.001
LASM presented Lin Emery: A Force of Nature in 2018, the last retrospective of Emery’s work before her passing in 2021 at the age of ninety-five.