American Decorative Arts
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Maker: Mark Lindquist, American, born 1949

Silent Witness #1, Oppenheimer


Walnut, pecan, and elm

85 × 22 in. (215.9 × 55.88 cm)
Yale University Art Gallery and Ruth and David Waterbury, B.A. 1958, Fund
Silent Witness #1, Oppenheimer is one of the most important examples of contemporary American wood turning. Over the course of his career, Mark Lindquist has drawn upon new conceptual approaches and used unorthodox tools—like chainsaws—to realize his creations. When Lindquist first exhibited this work in 1984, it sparked debates within the wood-turning community that prompted some makers to start seeing themselves as sculptors, not just as craftsmen of utilitarian objects. In conceiving this work’s seven-foot-tall, stacked form, Lindquist was inspired by how the modernist sculptor Constantin Brancusi erased the distinction between object and base in works like Endless Column (1918; Museum of Modern Art, New York) and Yellow Bird (1919; Yale University Art Gallery). In Lindquist’s title, Oppenheimer is an homage to J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American theoretical physicist who was instrumental in developing the atomic bomb. Although the work evades any single narrative, it has been interpreted as a portrait, a devotional stupa, an atomic cloud, a grave marker, and an ascending symbol of hope.
Made in Henniker, New Hampshire
20th century

Mark Lindquist, Henniker, N.H., 1983–88; Image Gallery, Sarasota, Fla., 1988; Margaret Pennington, Sarasota, Fla., 1988–2013; purchased by Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2013


Robert C. Hobbs, Mark Lindquist: Revolutions in Wood, exh. cat. (Seattle and London: Hand Workshop Art Center, 1995), 19–20, 60–61, ill.

Patricia E. Kane, Wood Turning in North America since 1930 (Philadelphia and New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 65–66, no. 52.

Janet Koplos and Bruce Metcalf, Makers A History of American Studio Craft (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 391–92, fig.10.13.

American Craft (June/July 1988): 25, ill.

Bruce Fellman, “One Good Turn,” Yale Alumni Magazine (October 2002): 49.

Peter Exton, “The Case Against the Vessel,” Turning Points (May 2007): 3.

Paul J. Smith and Edward Lucie-Smith, Craft Today: Poetry of the Physical (New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986), 271, fig. 31, 71.

Glenn Adamson, Thinking Through Craft (Oxford: Berg, 2007), 17, fig. 1.4.

Davira S. Taragin, Contemporary Crafts and the Saxe Collection (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1993), 154, fig. 6.

Jo Lauria and Steve Fenton, Craft in America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects (New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2007), 238, ill.

“Acquisitions July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018,” (accessed December 1, 2018).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.