Focus on Elaine Grove’s “Sound Weighs”

Lisa N. Peters

Elaine Grove - Sound Weighs, 2010

Elaine Grove, "Sound Weighs," 2010, steel, brass, and enamel, 31 x 19 x 19 inches

In Fifteen Contemporary Artists, which now fills our main gallery, the works are vibrant and personal, while their themes echo the art of the past.  Among them, Elaine Grove’s Sound Weighs (2010) seems a cross between the welded steel sculpture of David Smith and the found object art of Marcel Duchamp. In the sculpture, Grove set a fluted “witch’s hat” gramophone (with a Thomas Edison label) on the center of a platform, while a scale is attached at its base.  A bell with a cross-pull–once in a bell collection kept by the artist’s mother-in-law–is on the cover of an old incense burner.

The story emerges in the two barn hinges that look like sentinels, guarding the gramophone towering above them.  Grove admits: “once there was a scale in the piece, I couldn’t help going into a symbolic level.”  She found her Catholic upbringing emerging as well.  The work seems to ask: What is the music that plays from a life in the balance?  How do you measure music and sound waves (note the pun in the work’s title)? What does the spirit weigh? How do we weigh the small moments in life, casual encounters, small mistakes, every kindness? (The scale actually moves.)

Scale relationships are also a factor in the work: the small size of the forms in relation to the gramophone convey a sense of veneration for the inventions of the past, evoking a time of greater innocence (the iconic image on Victor Records of a dog hearing “his master’s voice” in a gramophone once said it all).