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Elizabeth Turk's Artistic Vision

Standing Ribbon #13 - Elizabeth Turk, 2008, marble carving, 17 inches by 7½ inches

The artist: A recipient of a 2010 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” Elizabeth Turk divides time between Newport Beach, where she grew up, and New York City. Turk studied international relations before receiving her master of fine arts from Maryland Institute College of Art. Inspired by the seabirds that swoop and whirl over Newport Bay, the 52-year-old sculptor transforms solid blocks of marble into shapes and patterns suggestive of nature. Her latest exhibition runs through Oct. 24 at Hirschl & Adler Modern, a gallery in Manhattan.

In Turk’s words: “The ribbon series essentially was a study of geometry or curves and seeing how far I could take a piece of marble and not have it implode on itself. You carve like you meet people. If you rush in, you break everything. You slowly get to know the stone. There’s a crack over here, I’ve got to go around it.

“I use diamond tools – pencil grinders, die grinders. It’s not about the positive form, it’s about the negative form, what’s been taken away. I draw out the basic design on the surface of the stone. You have a general concept and start narrowing down. So it’s really like editing. You keep editing and editing and editing. There’s something about the paradox – it’s hard, but it looks soft. For me, these pieces are very relaxing to make because you have to be so focused. They’re portals of meditation.”

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