Pitchfork Lightning is an enlargement of a previous work by this artist composed of vines and found objects, including the pole and tine from a pitchfork. The natural and found objects that compose the earlier version of this work were enlarged and fabricated in bronze by The Seward Johnson Atelier through a combination of metal fabrication and sand casting. David Smith famously incorporated assemblages of found metal objects and farming tools in his Agricola and Tanktotems series, however, whereas Smith’s forms feel both anthropomorphic and highlight the shapes of the objects in an intentional way, Susan Pullman Brooks’ work weaves the objects into a complex composition that focuses more on the whole rather than the sum of the individual parts.
“Pitchfork” lightning describes a natural phenomenon where a single lightning strike fragments into multiple series of branches. In the sculpture, a sense of balance stems from the sturdy core combined with the sense of movement from the sinuous lines surrounding and extending from it. Metaphorically, Pullman Brooks uses the dichotomy of motion and stillness in this work to point to a world that blends both fixed meanings and randomized actions. The artist states,
“We live in a world that is beyond our control and reckoning; it is a world that we seek to understand as having limits and circumscription, which we contend with as we move and animate ourselves without any fixed boundaries or predeterminations. Our pursuit of meaning, which always invites remembrance, is at play with our need to be free.”
The sculpture is sited near a small grove of bamboo trees whose sounds when in motion complement the meditative undulation of the lake. Bamboo is symbolically one of the “Three Friends of Winter” alongside pine and plum trees, representing vitality, durability, and flexibility. Grounded, yet often in motion, it complements both the graceful vertical and curved lines of the sculpture.