Orbits and Constellations

James Jared Taylor | April 14, 2023

Orbits and Constellations: for Wayne Shorter

These works in steel were created at the height of the Covid pandemic during the months of March through June 2020.  Since much of the world was not functioning and museums, galleries, stores, and theaters were closed, there were virtually no activities to distract me or take my time.  I was teaching on-line, going to the grocery store when needed, and going on hikes with my wife.  

My studio and scrap yard were filled with materials I had been ignoring for years.  The pandemic, in a sense, was good because all I could do was engage in art making with what was around since I could not purchase new supplies.  

I pulled out various pieces of straight steel stock from the pile- mostly tubing and solid bar.  As I was sketching out ideas, I was listening to jazz- my music of choice.  One of the musicians I have followed over the years is the renowned saxophonist and composer- Wayne Shorter.  I have followed Shorter’s work for almost 50 years- from his early work with Miles Davis to his stewardship with pianist and keyboardist Joe Zawinul of the great fusion group- Weather Report to his recent orchestral and operatic works.  I was listening to his music and reading his biography during those aforementioned months during the early pandemic. 

One composition by Shorter, “Orbits,” caught my attention.  I had listened to it many times but I was really beginning to notice its minimalist complexity.  The particular recording of this composition is on his live album “Without a Net.”  

As I was creating these sculptures, much of my thought was about space- both how we experience and see it.  When I look at the sky, I see stars creating points for connect the dot drawings suggesting constellations.  While I was bending the curves in steel, I thought of elements “orbiting” around a celestial body.  I know from following Shorter’s life and career, he was always interested in “what’s out there.”  The in-between spaces are as important than the existence of matter and form.  

“Nobody wanted to talk about going to Mars anyway. So I excused them from my club.”   Wayne Shorter as quoted in his biography Footprints by Michelle Mercer

Orbits by Wayne Shorter on the Album “Without a Net”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XN6LfRBBk8