This Clever “Ghost Clock” Is Not What It Seems

At first glance, Wendell Castle’s “Ghost Clock”, an art piece on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, looks like an old grandfather clock covered in a white sheet. But looks can be deceiving.

What’s the point of displaying a covered up old clock in a museum, right? You’d be tempted to think the exhibit is temporarily covered up for reconditioning, but a plaque at the base of the artwork quickly clears things up for those interested enough to read it. Castle’s Ghost Clock was expertly hand-carved from a large block of laminated mahogany, white cloth, rope and all.


Photo: Dave McIntire

The plaque reads: At first glance, Ghost Clock appears to be a grandfather clock hidden by a large white sheet tied with a rope. A close look, however, reveals a masterful deception: this entire sculpture was hand-carved from a single block of laminated mahogany. With meticulous detail, Castle re-created in wood the contours of soft, supple cloth, then completed the illusion by bleaching the “drapery” white and staining the base of the “clock” a walnut brown. This work is the last in a series of thirteen clocks the artist created in the 1980s; unlike the others, it lacks an inner mechanism. Its haunting stillness and silence suggest eternity—the absence of time.


Photo: Dave McIntire

We’ve seen this kind of wood magic before. Artist Fraser Smith can carve realistic clothing from blocks of hard wood, and Randall Rosenthal uses trompe l’oeil carving and painting techniques to turn pieces of wood into stacks of dollar bills, newspapers and books. But Wendell Castle’s Ghost Clock is in a class of its own. The way the white fabric seems to fall on the grandfather clock, the use of creases and shadings in just the right places, everything is perfect.


Photo: Just Some Things

Wendell Castle has been recognized as one of the most influential wood sculptors and designers of the last four decades, and is known as the father of the art furniture movement.


Photo: Imgur

Sources: Soda Head, Twisted Sifter

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