A Family Tree, 2005

Vellum, plastic, metal, and staples
Dimensions variable, longest element ten feet
A Family Tree is a single large mobile that functions as an installation piece. In past works Niederlander has used water, rocks, forested space and individuated leaves as metaphors for the human experience. With A Family Tree, Niederlander uses the tree to reflect on motion, the passage of time and an individual’s place in the continuum. The work is made with papers that are cut into shapes that take on the abstracted appearance of snow, developing leaves, wings, or emerging hands. The shapes are stapled together into a random quilt of the world and are then bound to a skeletal mobile structure.

Mobiles have an indeterminate quality, and a lack of manageability. In 1946 John-Paul Sartre writing about Alexander Calder’s mobiles, noted that they are “sensitive symbols of Nature, of that profligate Nature which squanders pollen while unloosing a flight of a thousand butterflies; of that inscrutable Nature which refuses to reveal to us whether it is a blind succession of causes and effects, or the timid, hesitant, groping development of an idea.” Mobiles start from a place of equilibrium; but they are constantly capable of becoming something else entirely, something not planned for. As such, a mobile is a straightforward placeholder for the experience of living. Although Niederlander has a history of creating sculptures that are not earth-bound, this is her first true mobile.