Stephen Talasnik’s Top 5 Inspirations from Childhood
A polymath whose work encompasses sculpture, drawing, and architectural land art, Stephen Talasnik manifests an elaborate and evocative aesthetic vision. He has created installations for the Japan Society, Storm King Art Center, and is one of the primary artists at Tippet Rise Art Center in Montana. His work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the Albertina, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the British Museum, and the Centre Pompidou. He lives and works in New York City. Below, Stephen Talasnik writes about five inspirations in life and work, much of which can be seen his new book, Unearthed: Stephen Talasnik: Drawings, Sculpture, Installations.
Watching the 1960s NASA space program on a large black and white TV set in the living room of the first home I ever lived in. Grainy images of the moon landing, and Neil Armstrong talking to President Nixon. Watching the science broadcaster for ABC News, Jules Bergman, describe the trips that the early astronauts took into space using models so that even a kid could understand the complexity of it. No digital animations, just a guy holding toys.
Pioneer, Stephen Talasnik, Satellites Series, 2016, Yellow Cedar and Corten Steel, 50 x 45 x 35′(h) (photo by Erik Petersen, image © Tippet Rise Art Center)
Visiting Hershey Park in the early 60s and seeing my very first large wooden roller coaster. Riding it once and declaring that I would never ride another roller coaster but seeking every opportunity I could to visit wooden roller coasters. Every time I saw one, I would want to visually deconstruct it, and creating one on my own became a lifelong obsession. For a kid who failed all levels of math in school, I learned about the rudiments of engineering and geometry by examining how roller coasters were put together. I have not ever ridden a roller coaster since that first ride on the Comet at Hershey Park.
Defensive Architecture, Stephen Talasnik, 2001, Graphite on paper, 22 x 72″, Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Gift of Architektur Galerie Berlin, Ulrich Muller (image credit: D. James Dee)
Being challenged to make visionary architecture at the age of 8 by my first art teacher, who asked me to collect commercial food packaging: cartons, tubes, cubes—as long as it was thrown away—to reassemble into futuristic space ships, satellites, and eventually to construct cities. My favorite cardboard containers were Quaker Oats boxes, empty boxes of Jello, and aluminum foil tubes. I could build models of architecture that were imaginative and mentally functional, using what was left from the kitchen.
Left: Hudson River, Floating Panorama Observation Platform, Stephen Talasnik, 2003, Wood, 12 x 12 x 12″; right: Rocket Landing Pad for Skyscraper, Stephen Talasnik, 2003, Wood, 16 x 8 x 8″, Collection of the Washington DC Convention Center (Photo by D. James Dee)
Visiting my uncle’s home inventor’s laboratory to play within an environment of the inventor. My uncle was the single most influential person in my early life; an electrical engineer for RCA, he could build a radio or a row boat from scratch without diagrams or plans. He had an intuitive understanding of how things worked. I would sit in his studio and watch him make things and experience early—from the age of about five—the pleasures of starting with ingredients and creating a working “anything.”
Stephen Talasnik’s studio. (Photo by Jeffrey Scott French)
Watching airships or “blimps.” When I was a child, we lived near an airport, so I could see a range of flying machines. We would summer in Atlantic City and invariably, nearly every day, the Good Year Blimp would glide overhead. I would remain in awe of the large floating dirigible. It would arouse my curiosity related to flight and the magnificence of a massive object effortlessly hovering over the land. As an adult I went to the Zeppelin Museum in Freidrichshafen Germany to witness the history of airships through actual fragments of the early dirigibles; a collection of infrastructure building, “skins,” photos, and film footage depicting the early flights of the Zeppelin; flights and crashes.
Airship, Stephen Talasnik, 2011, Basswood, 192 x 30 x 24″, Installation: Gensler Architects, New York (Photo by Jeffrey Scott French)
Stephen Talasnik’s intricate and mesmerizing work bridges the disciples of art and architecture in this debut monograph. Unearthed: Stephen Talasnik: Drawings, Sculpture, Installations is on sale now everywhere books are sold: