Silent Witness #1, Oppenheimer Maker: Mark Lindquist (American, born 1949)


American Decorative Arts

Not on view

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.


Walnut, pecan, and elm


85 × 22 in. (215.9 × 55.88 cm)

Credit Line

Yale University Art Gallery and Ruth and David Waterbury, B.A. 1958, Fund

Accession Number



20th century


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 records is ongoing.



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
  • American Art: Selections from the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2023), 268–69, no. 133, ill
  • "Selected Acquisitions," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2018), 94–95, ill
  • "Acquisitions July 1, 2017–June 30, 2018," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin: Online Supplement (accessed December 1, 2018), 9
  • 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
  • Jo Lauria and Steve Fenton, Craft in America: Celebrating Two Centuries of Artists and Objects (New York: Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2007), 238, ill
  • Glenn Adamson, Thinking Through Craft (Oxford: Berg, 2007), 17, fig. 1.4
  • Peter Exton, "The Case Against the Vessel," Turning Points (May 2007), 3
  • Bruce Fellman, "One Good Turn," Yale Alumni Magazine (October 2002), 49
  • Patricia E. Kane, Wood Turning in North America since 1930 (Philadelphia and New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001), 65–66, no. 52
  • Robert C. Hobbs, Mark Lindquist: Revolutions in Wood, exh. cat. (Seattle and London: Hand Workshop Art Center, 1995), 19–20, 60–61, ill
  • Davira S. Taragin, Contemporary Crafts and the Saxe Collection (New York: Hudson Hills Press, 1993), 154, fig. 6
  • American Craft (June/July 1988), 25, ill
  • Paul J. Smith and Edward Lucie-Smith, Craft Today: Poetry of the Physical (New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1986), 271, fig. 31, 71
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