Based in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area, Dalya Luttwak is well-known for her large-scale, site-specific sculptures inspired by plant roots. Exposing and magnifying what is usually hidden, Luttwak’s work calls attention to the extensive and complex support systems that anchor and nourish the plants that we harvest, cultivate and admire on the earth’s surface. Expertly manipulating her materials—steel that has been forged, welded, and painted—Luttwak transforms pliable roots into sturdy, formidable objects that retain strong organic formal qualities. This exhibition features a selection of new sculptures anchored by the provocative, wall-mounted Cannabis Sativa. According to the artist, that work seeks to represent the “golden balance” between the different elements of the Cannabis plant and their various usages. Its seeds can be used to make hemp seed oil and provide bird feed; hemp fiber from its stem can be fashioned into rope, fabric, and paper; and its flowers and leaves are consumed for recreational and medicinal purposes. Luttwak’s sculpture calls attention to the only underutilized element of this plant—the root system that supports its very existence. Other works in the exhibition include an elaborate metallic screen suspended from the ceiling and composed of a thick, interwoven tangle of metallic root forms, as well as a work that challenges the confines of the gallery (just as roots are prone to transgress boundaries) by simultaneously occupying space both inside and outside the building. In a new direction for the artist, all the sculptures are black with a gold element, which symbolically represents the visible product cultivated on the surface but supported through the root foundation. Germination of Gold additionally features actual roots collected by the artist and assembled in her studio, offering a glimpse into her inspiration and working processes.
Born in Israel, Luttwak was educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and has resided in the United States since 1972. Always drawn to metal work, the artist created jewelry early in her career, but progressively shifted her focus to sculpture. She has been creating root sculptures since 2007, sometimes working from actual physical roots, and other times copying or drawing roots as the basis for her work. Luttwak observes, “I try to uncover the hidden beauty of roots, exploring the relationship between what grows above the ground and the invisible parts below of various root systems. My sculptures reveal what nature prefers to conceal.”
Image credit: Dalya Luttwak, Cannabis sativa (detail), 2014