Today we’re featuring two artists who have taken the theme of meditation in white to completely different ends of the spectrum. First we have Rachel Whiteread who created Thoreau’s cabin on New York’s Governors Island in an outdoor exhibition of community in nature, and then there is Lia Chavez who transformed her interior residence into a mimalist’s nirvana in white in an introversion bathed in light.
Chavez decided to craft her un-renovated 1955 space into a sleek, all-white sanctuary to work and meditate. And despite not having a background in architecture, Chavez oversaw the project herself, closely collaborating with a contractor to achieve her vision. “It was very improvisational. There were no drawings, no plans,” she explained, adding, “It was really about feeling the energy of the space and responding to the light.”
Ironically, the building’s one white feature before the renovation — its exterior — didn’t last. “There was a little pushback from painting the house black, which was expected,” Chavez laughed, referring to her neighbors.
Whiteread takes her inspiration from the American philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817–62). Her Cabin is a concrete cast of a New England-style wooden shed of the kind Thoreau retreated to. She hopes her better-read visitors will remember Thoreau’s Walden (1854), a reflection on the merits of simple living in natural surroundings that described his two years, two months and two days spent living in just such a cabin, which he built by Walden Pond in Massachusetts state.
In particular, Whiteread hopes people encountering her Cabin will pause in this beautiful spot outside the hubbub of the city and remember the chapter in Walden on solitude, where the Thoreau eulogises nature and his waterside location: ‘This is a delicious evening, when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. I go and come with a strange liberty in Nature, a part of herself’.
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