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Planisphere, by Martha Glowacki
Martha Glowacki, Planisphere for Washburn Observatory, 2005, cast iron, cast bronze, brass, wood, paper, 49-1/2 inches high x 40 inches long x 15 inches deep.
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What kind of art is in Starry Transit: An Installation by Martha Glowacki?
The exhibition is called an installation, that is, a group of artworks created specifically for a particular space. It includes three-dimensional sculptures and assemblages, or combinations of found and specially created objects.

  • For the exhibition, the artist constructed a tableau of birds and constellation models in a case that is much like a nineteenth century "cabinet of curiosities," made for exhibiting wonders of the natural world. Visitors to the exhibition are able to open drawers that contain etched images from celestial atlas maps of fall and winter constellations, along with bird migration maps from the Mississippi Flyway.
  • The sculpture, Phenakistoscope, is Glowacki's version of an 1830's invention that was a precursor of motion picture projectors. She imprinted two large discs with celestial maps drawn from a stargazing atlas. When turned by a crank, the moveable discs reveal constellations visible at specific dates and times in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. A viewer seated on an old piano stool looks from behind, through the notches in the disc, towards a mirror in which the bird appears to be flapping its wings up and down.
  • The artist constructed Planisphere from various found parts, including an old sewing machine table and gears from a mechanical mop, along with armatures for which she made molds for casting at a foundry. She imprinte discs with maps of spring and autumn skies drawn from a stargazing atlas. Moving discs reveal areas of the sky visible during different months in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
  • Vocalizations of night migrating birds emanate from a sound recording prepared for the exhibition by Wisconsin recordist John Feith.
  • At sudden intervals the room is filled with recorded sounds of wingbeats and calls from flocks of birds.