Using tower forms as key signifiers of place and identity, Scenic Overlook activates the two-story gallery space with four large-scale wooden sculptures that borrow signature architectural features from the four highest observation towers in the world: Tokyo Skytree, Canton Tower, CN Tower and Ostankino Tower. This work advances Susan Giles’ investigation into tourism, architecture and the physicality of place by exploring aerial perspective and the individual’s relationship with these icons.
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago (DCASE).
Catalyst Sponsor: Nancy Fishman
Sponsor: Trinita Logue
Aerial perspective has long been identified as a source of visual power. A century ago, the Italian Futurists considered the ability to peer down from a great height upon a city to be both technologically and conceptually revolutionary. Today, cities continue to think vertically, building enormous towers not only to transmit signals for communications media, but as iconic architectural structures to express the city’s progressive status in a global context. Tourists easily recognize these structures, which act as metonymic representations of place while offering stunning panoptic views from their observation decks, simultaneously disconnecting the viewer from the street level.
Giles’ wooden towers, 20 to 25 feet in length, will be mounted horizontally on fabricated steel stands and “aimed” at viewers on the gallery’s catwalk, a permanent feature of the gallery space designed by visionary architect Doug Garofalo. Several small sculptures made of paper and concrete will be included in the show, dramatically shifting from mammoth to miniature, and challenging the viewer’s feelings in the presence of each building. Inverting the position and scale of these majestic structures provokes the critical examination of the technology and progress they symbolize.
“When we seek to understand something, often we look at it from above—from a bird’s-eye view. In the culmination of her residency, Giles’ work speaks to this human desire to explore, travel, and even conquer our surroundings,” said Allison Peters Quinn, Director of Exhibitions and Residency Programs at Hyde Park Art Center. “The impact of and awareness of architecture reverberates throughout this exhibition and Chicago’s history, as well as the Art Center’s, turning some of our attention towards remodeling and programming the second floor into the Guida Family Creative Wing simultaneously.”
About Susan Giles
Susan Giles earned a Masters of Fine Art from Northwestern University in 2001 with an emphasis in sculpture and video, and a Masters of Art in Art Education: Studio Track from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1997. She has completed multiple large-scale installations and solo exhibitions across Chicago including The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Elmhurst Art Museum, Kavi Gupta Gallery and The Mission Projects, among others. Giles has received an award from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation in 2005 and a 1997 Fulbright Full Grant to Indonesia to study art and tourism. On a regional level, she has received a Fellowship Award from the Illinois Arts Council in 2009. Giles currently teaches art at DePaul University and lives and works in Chicago.