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Castleman, Dayton - VM - Dayton Castleman


Tilting at Giants by Dayton Castleman

by Dayton Castleman
A person catches their breath as they enter a church and their eyes are confronted by a startling image: an array of twelve enormous windmills fills the sanctuary, hovering in the air above them, looming over the worship setting, enveloped by the Gothic vault. The windmills are unexpected, anachronistic, and misplaced in this space.
They are completely still.
This stillness infuses the atmosphere with a sense of uneasy expectation. The brilliant towers, tall and clean, flash against the dark, vaulting canopy above. Like sentinels keeping watch, the sun-burst fans are poised, brimming with potential energy, waiting for a mysterious, transcendent wind to fill the space and make it sacred. Cradled within each tower, nearly lost in the spectacle, hover votive candles, glowing, unflickering, in prayer. This sanctuary is a living prayer—an aching, tense, expectant prayer—and a hair pulled taut, waiting to snap.

This reminds us of the event at Pentecost recorded in the biblical book of Acts, where the twelve disciples are waiting in a room together and “suddenly” a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” This room, we think, is waiting for wind and fire.
A Leonard Cohen song comes to mind. This place is pregnant with the same melancholy yearning, the same conflicted faith we sense in his words:

If it be your will,
if there is a choice,
let the rivers fill,
let the hills rejoice.
Let your mercy spill
on all these burning hearts in hell,
if it be your will
to make us well…

Perhaps nothing dramatic has happened, yet this sacred space has lived up to its designation. There is a humble hope in this place; a guarded assurance that hope does in fact exist, and a subtle variation of joy felt only in the presence of tremendous possibility.

The air is rich with suggestions and intimations of the invisible. “The wind blows wherever it pleases,” spoke Jesus, “you hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” Hanging heavy in the dusty, candle-scented atmosphere is a Quixotic appeal to the numbed imagination of the sleepy parishioner below:

"It is easy to see," replied Don Quixote, "that you are not used to this business of adventures. Those are giants, and if you are afraid, away with you out of here and betake yourself to prayer, while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat."

Like the divine words of the prophet Ezekiel, echoing out over the valley of bones and bodies, it is an invitation to doubt boldly and an invitation to believe wholly. It is an invitation, at least, to wrestle with God.
Tilting at Giants,2006, aluminium, steel, votive candles, glass votive holders, braided fishing line, steel cable, rigging hardware, 30 x 100 x 10 feet. Tilting at Giants is a permanent site-specific sculpture located in the historic Chambers-Wylie Memorial Presbyterian Church building in downtown Philadelphia, PA. Now operated by Broad Street Ministry, the work was commissioned by the ministry with an open call for proposals administrated through the Philadelphia Percent for Art Program.
Dayton Castleman is a Chicago, Illinois-based multidisciplinary artist whose work and interests include his studio practice, curatorial projects, dance, and writing. His work has been presented in museums, galleries, and other venues across the United States and in Europe. He received his BA in Art from Belhaven University, and his MFA in sculpture from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Dayton teaches sculpture, drawing, and digital media at Trinity Christian College, near Chicago, and serves on the board of Christians in the Visual Arts.
ArtWay Visual Meditation June 5, 2011