Lena Henke’s installation Stand Back, integrates animate and inanimate to create a whimsical tableau of a metal and sand sculpture sited beneath a weeping willow tree. The iconography of the melancholy weeping willow tree – a stand-in for classic Romantic depictions of death and nature – contrasts with the unsentimental industrial sand and metal materials. Sited together along the East River at Socrates Sculpture Park, the juxtaposition references and undermines many Romantic art historical depictions of The Natural. For Henke, classic literary symbolisms of the willow tree, such as Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” when doomed Ophelia breaks willow branches and tosses them into the river where she eventually drowns herself, furthers the emotional play of the three-dimensional artwork along the water.
The title, Stand Back, refers to a 1983 Stevie Nicks song of the same name. Nicks wrote the song on her wedding day and describes the song as being about “endings and beginnings” and includes the lyrics, “like a willow I can bend…”, which references to the adaptability of the willow tree. Like the Nicks song, Henke’s work Stand Back will morph and evolve over time, as wind and weather reshape the tree and the sand and metal structure, washing away art historical references with a contemporary sensibility. After the exhibition, the willow tree will remain installed permanently at Socrates Sculpture Park.
For more information on this artist, see Lena Henke’s Artist Profile