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Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky (work of art)

Artwork Info

Created
2003
Artist
Chris Drury
Nationality
British
Birth/Death
1948-
Dimensions
Approx. diameter:
12 feet (3.66 meters)

Credit

Commissioned by the North Carolina Museum of Art with funds from the North Carolina State Art Society (Robert F. Phifer Bequest)

Object Number
2005.12
Culture
British European
Classification
Sculpture
Department
Modern

Key Ideas about this Work of Art

  • Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky functions as a camera obscura, or pinhole camera. As light passes through the hole in the roof, it creates an upside-down reflection of the sky and clouds on the ground beneath the viewer. It is a peaceful, dreamlike space where viewers can observe the natural world around them. 
  • Artist Chris Drury has created 16 “cloud chambers,” only two of which are located in the United States. Each cloud chamber is made from natural materials and plants that are native to the area in which it is built. 
  • Drury is known for his nature-based sculptures and works that encourage viewers to consider the connections between humans and the environment. 
  • In 2021 the sculpture’s roof was repaired after years of wear and tear from the environment. With the artist’s approval, the roof was restored using logs from rot-resistant trees that are native to this area.

Learn More

Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky is one of the first site-specific, outdoor installations commissioned for the Museum Park. A site-specific installation is a work of art designed for a particular location and interconnected with the location. This art installation was designed and built by British artist Chris Drury in 2003, in a wooded area of the NCMA Park. It is made from stone, cement, earth, and trees and plants that are native to the southeastern United States. 

Thiscloud chamber” operates like a giant camera obscura, or pinhole camera. A small opening in its roof projects an upside-down image of the sky and trees above the chamber onto the floor and the walls inside it. Instead of looking up at the sky, the viewer looks down and sees the sky on the ground inside the structure.

“People who have never experienced being inside cloud chambers sometimes question the difference between looking up at clouds and seeing the image inside a chamber. In fact, these experiences are quite distinct … It is an altered image, slightly blurred, dim, like a scene from an old movie or a dream.”

Chris Drury

Drury has designed and built 16 cloud chambers in different locations around the world. His only other cloud chamber in the United States is located at Vanderbilt University in Brentwood, Tennessee. All of Drury’s cloud chambers are interactive structures made from natural materials that are native to their surrounding environment. They are designed to be peaceful spaces that bring the outside in.

After 17 years of use and exposure to the weather, the pine roof of Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky was showing signs of decay. In 2021 the NCMA Conservation Department consulted with the artist before rebuilding the roof with logs from the black locust tree, a naturally rot-resistant tree that is native to this region.

tags: environment, experiential, photography, reflection, change, movement, light, sensory

Additional Resources

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Images

  • A photograph of a stone hut with green plants growing on top of its wooden roof. The hut is located on a hill and surrounded by tall trees.

    Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky

  • A photograph of a stone hut with green plants growing on top of its wooden roof. The hut is located on a hill and surrounded by tall trees.

    Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky, interior view.

  • A photograph of a stone hut with green plants growing on top of its wooden roof. The hut is located on a hill and surrounded by tall trees.

    Drury, Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky, 2055_12 (SL23176-03), interior view

    Pinhole projection of sky and trees in an interior view of Chris Drury's Cloud Chamber for the Trees and Sky in the NCMA Park