As people scramble onto the escalator that descends toward the MetroLink tracks at the Convention Center station, a glowing metallic gold dugout canoe suspended among the branches of skeletal trees appears to float before their eyes. Located in the station’s escalator well, Tim Curtis’ installation, Future Perfect consists of a suspended thicket of slender trees and a golden vessel that floats among the branches in stark contrast to the station environment.
The canoe was carved with a chain saw and a wood-shaping tool called an adz; the artist used a traditional method of burning out the tree’s inside. Reflecting on this process, Curtis emphasizes his fascination with integrating labor and art, stating, “These methods often require monotonous toil, which then becomes a ritual in itself.”
Before Europeans settled St. Louis, the Mississippi River was the main thoroughfare for Native Americans who made their homes along its banks. The land now occupied by Laclede’s Landing, only two miles from the station, was once woodland where native tribes buried their dead in sacred earthen mounds. Later, fur trappers and explorers plied the river in their canoes using it as a major highway through the nation’s heartland. By placing Future Perfect in the Convention Center station, where today’s travelers experience its presence on a daily basis, the artist reminds us of our complex cultural history and ties to the natural landscape.
Curtis says, “I utilize elemental materials that reveal the primal forces of growth and change, creation and destruction, and life and death. These sculptures can be viewed as vessels or carriers of metaphysical meaning, which foster contemplation and a reconsideration of the worldly values to which we now subscribe.” For Curtis, the idea of ascension is also a part of the layered meaning associated with vessels. Future Perfectalso references St. Louis regional history: the Mississippi River, the vessels that have traveled it, and the spirit of the peoples who have inhabited the land for centuries.
Courtesy of Metro Arts in Transit.
Dimensions: 12′ x 15′ x 12′
Year Completed: 1995
Material: Wood, gold leaf, branches, steel, netting
Owner: Bi-State Development Agency, Arts In Transit