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Post details: Torpedo Factory

Torpedo Factory

What kind of person would name an Art Center the Torpedo Factory? Well, my kind of person! To set up a living gallery in an old weapons manufacturing facility is an idea so preposterous that I couldn't help seeing for myself. From the moment I laid my eyes on the two slim metallic cylinders that decorate its interior courtyard, I knew that this place was going to live up to its promise and I started wondering whether you could buy some used torpedoes on eBay. They would look really great in my living room.

Located on the waterfront in downtown Alexandria, the Torpedo Factory is not a gallery in the usual sense. Rather it is a string of studios which you can roam at your leisure and where you can pause and have a chat with the artist to see what kind of mind conjured up the creations that caught your eye. This aspect makes the experience very different from the sterile and passive monitoring of the walls in traditional art museums.

On the second floor, for instance, I ran into the woodcarvings of Rosemary Feit Covey. I am sure Franz Kafka would love to have her images in his books. They delved headlong into the disturbing and visually rich scenery of our Inner Universe, and once there they engaged the Demons of Existence in a feverish dance on a floor covered with razor sharp pieces of a broken mirror. You'd imagine the creator of these stern black and white images to be a daunting individual with scruffy unkempt mane, deeply sunken eyes and unstable psyche. But such portrait couldn't be further from reality. After a brief conversation, the artist turned out to be a very fine lady that could have very well just returned from an afternoon tea with the Duchess of York. Her mild manners and dainty physique betrayed none of the anguished nightmares that ran like pointed nails through her carvings. Such blatant discrepancy between life and art reminded me of one of Gustav Mahler's lesser known maxims: "The Spirit blows wherever it wants". Indeed, it lives in its own Universe.

And speaking of universes - as a mathematician, I greatly appreciated Pat Monk's studio on the first floor. His sculptures and robust three-dimensional collages took a great deal of inspiration from exact sciences, whether it was his tribute to hyperbolic geometry in the form of a skeletal coordinate system or a helical staircase-like structure covered with dripping red paint that screamed its bloody message to all the passing Iraq war hawks. But my favorite exhibit was less concerned with the tomfoolery of this planet. It was a series of metallic cones arranged into a giant sphere and titled the Center of the Known Universe. Nothing gives you better sense of perspective than staring right into the core of your own Cosmic World.



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