“From the moment we are born, the world tends to have a box already built for us to fit inside. Our umbilical cord never seems to be severed; we only find new needs to fill. If we disconnected and severed our attachments, would we shatter our confinements and expand beyond our shell? Would the world look different? Would we recognize ourselves? Are we the box that we are inside, and to be authentically ‘un-contained’ would we still be able to exist? This is the irony of containment. As long as we don’t push on the walls of our surroundings, we may never know how strong we really are.” PAIGE BRADLEY
I conceived of this piece when I first moved to Manhattan. I was a bit startled by the power of the curators and the critics and how they all had an anti-figure slant on what they deemed show-worthy. So many of these people felt like everything figurative had already been done, and real art was about being a “Visionary” rather than just showing ability, accuracy or general talent. Thus, the figure had generally disappeared from galleries, museums, important collections, art fairs and other shows. The few of us that were left had no place to exhibit and our voice was not being heard. Many figurative sculptors started teaching, as that was all they could do.
If I wanted to stay in the fine art field, I knew I had to join my contemporaries and make ‘contemporary’ art. I knew that it was time to let go of all the finely tuned skills I had acquired over the years, and just trust in the process of making art. The art world was telling me I had to break down my foundation, let my walls crumble, expose myself completely, and from there I will find the true essence of what I needed to say.
So, literally, I took a perfectly good (wax) sculpture– a piece I had sculpted with precision over several months– an image of a woman meditating in the lotus position, and just dropped it on the floor. I destroyed what I made. I was letting it all go. It was scary. It shattered into so many pieces. My first feeling was, “what have I done?!” Then, I trusted it would all come together like I envisioned.
We cast all the pieces in bronze and assembled the pieces so they floated apart from one another. Then I brought in a lighting specialist and we built a crazy lighting system to make it glow from within. It turned out even better than I thought. And the best is that the image of “Expansion” means so much to so many who see it. I get letters every day! I feel like I really did my job successfully!
From the moment we are born, the world tends to have a box already built for us to fit inside. Our umbilical cord never seems to be severed; we only find new needs to fill.
If we disconnected and severed our attachments, would we shatter our confinements and expand beyond our shell?
Would the world look different? Would we recognize ourselves?
Are we the box that we are inside, and to be authentically ‘un-contained’ would we still be able to exist?
This is the irony of containment. As long as we don’t push on the walls of our surroundings, we may never know how strong we really are.
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14 thoughts on “The Story of Expansion”
I had buried my mother, divorced after 32 yrs, buried my father and this piece spoke to me on every level. Every level. Currently, I am listening to this piece of music from Yuah, titled “Breaking Molds” (https://youtu.be/LJeJVyqQScM ) which makes me feel exactly like this sculpture.
Wow. I had an assignment for school and we had to find a sculpture that we liked. I saw this and I was like wow this is really a piece of art. It is incredibly beautiful. I found so many odd ones that didn’t have much meaning but this is just wow.
Hi! I got here after a buzzfeed quiz, lol. I absolutely adore this type of art.
Xxx from the netherlands!
Hi Paige, thank you so much for sharing your story and bringing inspiration and hope to people around the world who can appreciate the Expansion piece and relate to it. I cant tell you enough how thankful I am for discovering your work and being able to draw inspiration from it for my 2nd ‘BODIES OF’ exhibition in May during my Erasmus exchange program. Theres this old saying ‘good artist copy, great artists steal’ so I will admit I used your piece as an anchor point in making ‘Deep’..but all credit goes to you, I included you in my blog for assessment. Thank you so much for this beautiful piece you’ve created, it speaks out to so many women, Ive been struggling with infertility for 7years now, and your work gave me hope, not only for my fertility journey but my art practise as a figurative sculptor too. Even more inspiring is the comments from people, to see how your work speaks and inspires them, is a lifegoal for me and a great achievement, thank you for sharing your story. Look forward to see more work in the future!
all of your work is incredibly beautiful and inspiring. ‘Expansion’, however, is emotionally moving for me. i came upon it on a youtube list of ‘Most Amazing Sculptures in the World’ just today, and i agree with that assessment 100%. as someone else mentions in the comments, the world interprets the work for themselves. the story you have for this piece fits it perfectly, however, as SO many things in life ‘shatter’ us. and everytime we fall apart, it’s the light inside of us that can burn even brighter to help us ‘put ourselves back together’…perhaps even illuminating the way for us to see. and to have the model be in lotus position, bringing herself to peace within herself, is brilliant. if i could afford it (which, unfortunately, i can’t–lol), i would try and purchase a much smaller version to display in my home. i simply LOVE this piece! thank you, for allowing yourself to ‘let go’ and allow yourself to find the ‘expansion’ in your creations!
I inadvertently discovered this piece today January 16, 2017. I was instantly arrested by the beauty of what I was seeing. A wondrous woman seated, contemplative and lit from within like a lightening strike – fireworks. An incredible WOW!
Indeed, ART MATTERS in ways we must express: Art is a language of many disciplines, too.
Your art speaks volumes about who you are in this World – mankind, womankind, humanity.
This sculpture gives hope to those who see her face lifted to the Heavens. She resonates through time calling to our collective consciousness.
I hope to have the opportunity to get to New York to view EXPANSION.
Thank you for the inspired thinking and the courage it to complete this, Paige Bradley. You have literally broken out in brilliance!
Peace and Plenty to you and this sweet green Planet called Earth.
ONE HUMAN FAMILY
Paige, When I saw this sculpture, I immediately thought of my mother. After she died I had a dream that she was sitting at a throne and then broke and burst into a million points of light that then turned into infinite lines of color. Then, I realized, the body and bone structure are exactly like mine. It felt like I was looking at a statue of myself. Is there a model that you used? I wonder who it is, because I think she may be my twin.
I’m sure you understand because you’re an artist that once you release your works into the world we immediately begin interpreting them for ourselves. For me this is an excellent modern depiction of the goddess Akhilandeshwari (also spelled Akhilandeshvari). It clicked for me as soon as I saw it, and your story about how it was made really fits. Amazing, and thank you for creating it.
I absolutely adore this sculpture, it would have to be my most favourite work of art, it is beautiful and awe inspiring. I use the photo as my Facebook cover photo and look at it everyday.
I came across it purely by chance on the Internet.
I have signed the petition to have it back for the public.
This beauty should be mass produced, even smaller in size, to be available for purchasing by the public.. I would love one in my bedroom, it would look amazing as a light feature as well as art. Thank you for creating this gorgeous bronze sculpture. Love from Melbourne, Australia xo
‘Expansion’ is not just a marvelous piece to exhibit but it is a philosophy. You got it right when you said that different people interpret it differently. Congrats for manifesting such a brilliant idea in physical form for the world to see, wonder and ponder.
Every year I choose a word as my word for the coming year. My word arrived a little earlier than usual this year and it is EXPANSION. I googled ‘expansion’ to see what images came up and in perfect synchronicity, found the image of your beautiful sculpture. WOW! She will be the image icon for my word of 2016. Your words “if we disconnected and severed our attachments, would we shatter our confinements and expand beyond our shell?’ resonate so clearly with what this coming year is going to be for me – shattering my confinements and expanding into every corner of myself and every corner of the work I am called to as a writer and an emerging artist. Thank you for having the courage to lead the way. Love, happiness and magic be with you always. Tina B x
Paige, you cannot **imagine** how Expansion speaks to me. I am going to have to share my writings about this when I can. But in the meantime, I stare at this whenever I feel like the light within me is dimming. Thank you. THANK YOU.
Dear Paige! ART has always captivated me…EXPANSION is the perfect name of a truly stunning, deeply meaningful scultpure …first it reminds me 3 wise quotes by Rumi “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens as wound is the place where the light enters you and only from the heart can you touch the sky”…and when you dug deeper, behind the true story of Expansion, I was deeply moved….Thank you all the way from Estonia!
Paige: Your sculpture is amazing, I have recently been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Saw this in the 25 world sculptures email and was wowed by it instantly, It has become my image of the cancer and chemotherapy (radiation to follow) dueling it out in my body, I am so grateful for its existence. Your sculpture even has rust like spots on the front of the shoulder that remind me the port and the replacement port that were placed in that part of me. My best friend from childhood is a figurative bronze sculpture and she fights the same battle around acceptance and respect for the figurative that you describe. Thank you for being an inspiration. Pati Y