Novelist Milan Kundera once wrote, "We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded ..." and he added that only in retrospect can we "find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has." Looking back at modern art, Lin Emery's sculptures seem as timeless as anything by Eero Saarinen, Alexander Calder or any of the great modern designers who infused the forces of nature into their creations. Like nature, creativity often seems just to happen, and Emery, 92, always has responded nimbly to its challenges. She was working as a newspaper reporter in Paris in 1949, when she interviewed sculptor Ossip Zadkine and found his studio so intriguing that she signed up for an art class there, which changed her life. Later, in New Orleans, her devotion to technique became legendary. She was washing dishes in her kitchen when her life took another turn after she noticed a spoon balanced on the edge of a cup rocking back and forth in response to water dripping from a faucet.
In retrospect, modern designs that survived the test of time often reflect elemental forces like the currents of air that gently animate the dancelike motion of Emery's kinetic concoctions, just as Frank Lloyd Wright's pioneering modernism harked to the way traditional Japanese design reduced natural forms to their essence. Hints of Asian calligraphy appear in the flowing horizontal bands of Emery's polished aluminum Anole (pictured), the pristine mirrorlike surfaces of which blend as seamlessly into their surroundings as the chameleon lizard for which it is named. But air can be fickle, and the vortex of curving, bladelike forms of Ouroboros reflects the elemental forces that aerodynamic leaves or wind-swept waves manifest in material form. In Tumbler, an airy cluster of elongated vertical forms recalls the fluid upward flickering of a campfire as well as the delicate brushwork of a Zen drawing — yet all are variations of the same poetic serendipity embodied in the motions of a spoon dancing to water from a dripping faucet in the artist's kitchen long ago. Through April 28. Arthur Roger Gallery, 432 Julia St., (504) 522-1999; www.arthurrogergallery.com.