On a recent trip to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, I was looking for the way out and exited into a spacious landing and wide stairway. The pale walls and stone stairs gleamed with soft light. Soundless, suspended over the stairs, a Calder mobile wafted on the breeze I had created by opening the door.

For more than ten minutes I found myself wonderfully alone with it. It’s difficult to describe how compelling the mobile was. It’s all about the movement of course. My eyes automatically began to track the orbit of the irregularly-shaped pendants, silent, hypnotic. Then my attention was caught by the vertical and horizontal wires, impossibly thin, and the mobiles’ gravity-defying axis of rotation. It appeared as though a single shape balanced the entire structure. Finally, a complete surprise and joy to me, I noticed the shadows cast by the shapes. I watched ever-changing silhouettes borne by light onto waiting surfaces. I saw some shadows resting long enough to begin a conversation between ghost and object.

A door opened. A young couple joined me on the landing. They gazed up at the metal universe, speaking in whispers. After a few minutes they moved on.

My first contact with Alexander Calder’s mobile was over. I walked away thrilled and awed by his technical mastery of matter, space and energy. I didn’t look at any other art after that. Just left the museum and sat under a tree in a plaza across the street, suddenly aware of the interconnectedness of everything.

Image Credit: Boy with Alexander Calder Sculpture by Dimitry B.