A Story… The Promise
The concept of The Promise came about partly as the result of an accident, as ideas sometimes do. I was working on a beautiful piece of Italian statuary marble that came from the same quarry as Michelangelo used, and one day it broke and I found myself with three egg-shaped forms. Horrified, I put them aside and started to work on a different sculpture. But I felt very drawn to them, particularly by the way the shadows they cast on the floor changed over the course of the day. Whenever I entered the studio I felt a strange magic emanating from them. Soon I started to play with them, clicking them together, loving the sound they made.
One day, my son, after hearing me tell him about this yet again, blurted out, “Mom, I know what you mean, this is the sound of rocks moving underwater when you were a little girl in Sweden.” I was stunned: he was right. I suddenly remembered spending all my days by the ocean during the summer.
This occurred at the time both my children were going off to college. I was very upset by this, as most parents are: there was a terrible void inside me. I suddenly understood exactly what empty nest syndrome is. By immersing myself in The Promise, I think I was reassuring myself that everything was going to be okay. It is a project very much about hope and reinventing yourself.
Why fifteen eggs? In numerology, the number fifteen represents the fulfillment of all possibilities. Although we may feel there is no solution, no escape from something, it signifies that there is always some new energy waiting, some new possibility.
The Promise represents for me both limitless possibility and the idea of profound inner peace. It embodies the opposition of strength and fragility, and the balance between them that exists everywhere and within everyone. It declares that the tools to change a situation will always be available to us.
The organic shape of the egg embodies the duality of strength and fragility each of us has within us and that we all must confront. In my work, it is a symbol both of creation and of the need we have to constantly recreate and reinvent ourselves. And in a world that seems so difficult and confusing, it is about possibility and hope.
It is the promise of art as a universal language that has motivated Cecilia Rodhe throughout her career as a sculptor and that informs every piece she has ever created. Like so many of the great sculptors of the past, she works with elemental themes and forms, which she imbues with a sense that is at once timeless and very much in the now. All of her sculptures express the dichotomy of strength and fragility that is at the very center of what it is to be human, and that is also intrinsic to the nature of stone, her primary medium, and the one in which she began her career nearly twenty years ago.
At the time, her life was the epitome of glamour. A former Miss Sweden and a leading international model photographed by some of the world’s premier photographers, she was married to French tennis star Yannick Noah and living in New York with their two children when she decided to become a sculptor and began her training at the New School, continuing it at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris, where she eventually moved and lived for more than a decade. In Paris she also studied with the prominent French sculptors Zorko and Xavier Dambrine, eventually getting her own atelier in Belleville. And prior to her return to New York, in 1998, she worked in Senegal with Mustapha Dime, developing the strong interest in African culture and civilization whose influence can be seen so clearly not only in her sculpture but in her frequent and energetic work for humanitarian causes throughout the world.
During her long and highly successful career, Cecilia’s work has been exhibited at the United Nations in both New York and Geneva, and in galleries in New York, Paris and Stockholm. She has also received numerous important private and public commissions, the most recent of which was for “In Oneness”, a massive bronze on permanent display in Atlantic City, New Jersey. If her art has always been strongly influenced by her personal environment, expressing everything that defines her as a woman and as a person, its resonance is only heightened in today’s world where hope and love and artistic beauty seem so anodyne, such necessary antidotes to everything that is happening around us.
Creative Director, Primary Exhibitions
World Trade Center Memorial Museum
Cecilia Rodhe’s sculptures find their source in nature. Many artists have speculated on the relationship between art and nature. Picasso famously said that the two realms are separate, and that art helps us express concepts far removed from nature. But perhaps there is a different way of envisaging our relationship with nature, of which art bears the testimony. Cecilia’ sculptures are not fragments found in nature, they are clearly man-made. But they remind us of the natural realm; carved in limestone or marble, their shape, often in the form of eggs, hint at an inherent fragility. They appear to have an organic relationship with the forests and vast expanses of Cecilia’s native land Sweden. And if they display a vocabulary of biomorphic forms, not unlike the sculptures of Barbara Hepworth, they are also strangely silent and effaced: beautiful, yet restrained traces of the journey that takes the artist from nature to the studio. They have reached a state of equilibrium, a precarious balance between nature and artifice. It seems to me that it is within that space that Cecilia’s work acquires its true meaning.
Associate Curator Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt