May 1–Dec 31, 2021

Elizabeth Tubergen [8]

Soft Wait

Steel, baltic birch, webbing, dye, lacquer, and hardware


The scale of the ocean is baffling—sometimes appearing as a thin horizontal line, sometimes as a vast endless body. When I look at the ocean from the surface, I fixate on how much of it I cannot see, the volume of water underneath the top plane of my own vision. I think about my own subjective, human perspective, and feel the friction from the limit of my own imagination’s capacity for the unknown.

Soft Wait is a gesture towards a different way of knowing a thing. The piece is not only what you look at, but also a thing that holds you while you are looking out. When sitting on or in the piece, viewers are re-oriented into a position of feeling the sculpture while it disappears beneath the body, out of sight—a shift in scale and perspective meant to reference the feeling of looking into the unknown, wading into the water whilst the Navy performs secret sonic experiments nearby or the feeling of walking over the bunker at Race Point in order to reach the vista.

When visiting Fisher’s Island in January, I thought back to one of my earliest memories, a memory that I had not recalled in a long time. I was born in Groton, at the naval hospital, whilst my dad was deployed on a nuclear submarine. I remember being approximately 3 or 4 years old and visiting the base, where a sub was out of the water for repair. We walked up a scaffold so I could touch the softly rounded steel of the boat’s nose dome. I had seen submarines surfacing from afar, seen them riding in partially exposed, but I was shocked at how large they were out of the water. This thing was huge, impossible to see in full from close proximity. When we entered the boat, its world collapsed, so tiny and cramped on the inside that I was overwhelmed with claustrophobia even as a kid.

For the Lighthouse Works Public Commission, I created a porous, interactive monolith with a central inverted dome designed to hold weight and intended as something to sit on. Taking formal cues from the site, the piece is flattened out, made to create another slim line on the horizon that feels more expansive when one is on top of it or up close. This is a place to wait for arrivals and departures, to meet, contemplate, play and enjoy.



Elizabeth Tubergen is an artist living and working between Queens, NY, and Leyden, MA. Tubergen’s work stems from a negotiation of queerness as a spatial condition and relationship as site. Her work has been shown internationally and she is the recipient of fellowships from Socrates Sculpture Park, the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation, Kustlerhaus Bethanien, the Jacob K. Javits Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, and Ox-Bow School of Art among others. Tubergen received her MFA from Hunter College in New York City in 2013, attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2015, and is presently core faculty in sculpture at the Yale School of Art.