Pieces of the city fall like leaves from the sky. Car parts, bladed tools, and reworked scrap metal blossom into carefully-tended and trimmed sculptural bouquets, or wilt their former glory from walls and ceilings through the large-scale, industrial visions of Dina Wind.
The Philadelphia-educated artist will be honored with a show at URBN Headquarters, just a year after her passing last September. The central focus of the show, “HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON REDUX, 2003,” is a permanent installation, while “Urban Transformations: Car, Bike, Rickshaw” will be on loan. A group exhibition will be shown in conjunction with the installations through the month of September. Artists include Dina’s son, John Y. Wind, as well as Henry Bermudez and Jedediah Morfit. John discusses the breakdown and background on the installations in an interview below.
Can you start off by telling me how this multi-layered exhibition came about – what kind of planning went into it? How do the various exhibitions differ from and complement each other?
It’s the culmination of two separate projects that happily coincided—
My assemblage “Self Portraits” is part of a three-person show curated by Lauren Addis of URBN Urban Outfitters. My work explores identity through the objects in our lives. The other artists are Henry Bermudez, who creates dizzying painted and cut paper wall pieces, and Jedidiah Morfit, who is showing an installation of graphically patterned plates. All of us deal in different ways with decoration and embellishment.
And the installation of my mom, Dina Wind’s pieces came about after she passed away last September– we began looking for a great home for her monumental installation “Hanging Gardens of Babylon”, and with an introduction through InLiquid, the URBN team fell in love with her work and saw it speaking to their employees and visitors. “Hanging Gardens of Babylon” will be permanently installed in the space. In addition, a large triptych called “Urban Transformations: Car, Bike, Rickshaw” will be exhibited on loan (the name is a nice coincidence!)
Why is the URBN space such a good fit for the work?
For my work, which has so much to do with fashion and who we are, displaying at the headquarters of lifestyle brands Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, etc is just perfect! In fact, Anthropologie is a big customer of my jewelry business, Maximal Art. One of my portraits in the show uses material from our partnership— “Fantasy Man (Mssr. Coquillage)” has hundreds of jeweled bobby pins adorning his shell crown…
For Dina’s work, the connection is first a celebration and transformation of industrial materials—her work upcycles obsolete car parts and machinery, and looks so great at the Navy Yard, itself re-invented for a new era, but with plenty of visual reminders of its heavy manufacturing roots.
She LOVED the space, and also loved the youthful, creative energy of the URBN community. We had spoken about installing “Hanging Gardens” there as a temporary installation. The current circumstances are bittersweet, but she would be thrilled.
For those unfamiliar with Dina’s work – how would you introduce them to your mother – both as a person, and as an artist?
As an artist, Mom was bold, brave, and determined—she roamed scrap metal yards looking for ‘interesting’ scrap, lugged it to her South Philly studio, did all her own welding…
She maintained a 40+ year practice, exhibiting mostly at Nexus Gallery in Philadelphia and Viridian Gallery in New York. In the early 2000s she made a dramatic leap from objects to installations—(“Hanging Gardens” was for a 2003 Nexus show). Watching her do this in her sixties was so inspiring.
As a mom she was passionate and supportive—encouraging my brother and me, exposing us, creating a warm, artistic and tradition-filled home. She was also a great champion of my art and my jewelry, wearing Maximal Art constantly and with great flair.
The last time I saw you was at your show opening at James Oliver Gallery. Not only was your mother in the audience, but many of the stories I heard about your pieces involved influences from your grandparents. Do you find that a familial bond has been important in your work – and in that of your mother’s?
For me very much so. Most of my work has an autobiographical element, and uses objects that I have collected from my own life. Many of these materials and inspirations are from my grandparents and parents. A good example is “History Piece”, in the URBN show—the teacups were my grandmother’s, and the spare button packs are in homage to my grandfather, who owned a men’s clothing store throughout my childhood.
For mom, family was less of a theme in her work—her concerns were more material, aesthetic and environmental.
Though it’s worth noting that her father owned a gas station/garage when she was young. I’m sure at some level her attraction to these materials is a reflection of that.
Your mother had a bright and powerful energy that radiated through to those she met – both sophisticated and down-to-earth. Do you think this quality can be found in her work, as a woman who creates beauty from industrial leftovers?
First of all, thank you for that—it’s so nice to hear! And I think those dichotomies perfectly sum up both her and her work. She embraced these seeming contradictions and created her own signature, both as a person and an artist.
How do you think that Philadelphia shaped your mother’s work in a way that she might not have experienced, had she received an education elsewhere?
Mom’s artistic education was very Philadelphia-centric. In the 1970s she took the two-year Barnes Foundation course, and also got a masters degree in aesthetics from Penn. Both helped form her intellectual approach to art. On a practical level, she took classes for years from Philadelphia Sculptor Leon Sitarchuk. And then the Philadelphia art community has always been her home-away-from-home. These were organizations she loved and championed, in many cases serving on their boards as well: Nexus, Philadelphia Sculptors, Fleisher, the PMA, Relâche new music ensemble, the Arts + Business Council…
What are you hoping that audience members will take away from the exhibitions?
For my “Self Portraits”, I hope viewers are intrigued by the pieces, enjoy their humor, and find themselves thinking about how objects in their own lives represent them.
For Mom, my family’s collective wish is that a new audience (in fact a new generation) discover Dina Wind’s work, recognize her unique talent, and be inspired by it!