On this bitter-cold morning in early January, she clambers over the rocks, looking for some bit of treasure worth removing her hands from her warm coat pockets for. “What’s this?” she asks, picking up a crude assemblage of foam-pipe insulation, sticks, and string, and briefly contemplating its past or maybe its potential before tossing it back. Over the years, Bove has found chunks of weather-beaten Styrofoam, strands of rusted wire, carcasses of dogs—some of which eventually become fodder for her sculptures. “I like not leaving the neighborhood and letting things come to me,” says Bove, who combines these found items with new, often shiny, elements produced in collaboration with artisans and fabricators, many of them located within walking distance of her house.
With her intense eyes, her tomboy looks, and her macho truck, Bove can seem tough, but her pieces have a built-in fragility that is both physical and psychic. She never glues the components together, and occasionally it seems that the only thing holding them fast is sheer force of will. “It’s effort for works to be installed,” Bove insists. “The invisible dimension is an important animating field—it takes a lot of energy. What I can’t work out is whether, when you disassemble the artwork and put it into a box, it is still a sculpture or just stuff. In a state of rest, maybe it just ceases to be.”
By the time superstorm Sandy hit this past fall, Bove had already begun quite literally to give her work nerves of steel. She had made an outdoor installation for last summer’s “Documenta 13,” the 100-day exhibition in Kassel, Germany, and was thinking about a couple of possible commissions in New York, including one for the High Line, that would have to be built with severe storm conditions in mind. “The engineering specifications for outdoor work are very stringent,” she says. “A sculpture has to be able to withstand sustained winds of, like, 100 miles an hour for up to four hours. At that rate, trees are going to be flying around, but the sculpture is going to be fine.”
Bove had acquired a second, outdoor studio—basically an empty lot between two buildings, shielded from the street by a roll gate—where she put in a gantry and a hoist that enable her to deal with large pieces of metal and petrified wood. And while many of her neighbors, including some of her fabricators, were wiped out by the storm, losing their valuable equipment, none of her pieces were damaged—in fact, it took Bove a few days even to notice that she had been flooded.