Wednesday, May 30, 2012

concrete pouring party!

Yay! Concrete pouring work-parties are fun. A few friends and three hours during a lovely summer morning ... and the pillars are poured and the granite set.

L to R:   Deanna Pindell, Grace Brown, Rich Haag, Paul Haag, Michael Haag
Everybody's favorite paparazzi: Becky Hannum, the interim Program Director at the McColl Center.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ambassadors of dreams


Ambassadors to another world, a place of dreams and hopeful joy. These five form a cycle, a system, a swirling network of entangled relationships. None of these species, who make their home in and around our little pond, can survive without the well-being of the others. Mockingbird and minnow; bumblebee and duckweed; the willow oak.

The images above are the stencils I have made to represent these species. The stencils were given to the stone engravers, who carved them into the stone, along with the common names for each.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Catawba River connections

Last weekend, we had a work-party, and my assistant Michael brought along his father, Rich Haag. (As well as his brother, Paul Haag and friend Grace Brown).  As it turns out, Rich is very involved with the Catawba RiverViews and we found a good synergy between our projects and passions for the rivers of this watershed.

Catawba RiverViews is a community newsletter focused on the River district, particularly environmental and sustainability issues.

Here is Rich's well-written short article about this project, with some great photos!

Catawba River Views: Downtown Charlotte art will help to clean the Catawba

Catawba River advocate Rich Haag

Monday, May 21, 2012

Stones and bones

This last four weeks has been a flurry of design and site preparations. My assistant, Micheal Haag, went with me to a stoneyard. In the back we found the boneyard ... the broken scraps and odd and ends, available for cheap as long as we were willing to dig through the muddy piles of rocks!

We gathered up a nice collection of granite pieces, clearly leftovers from kitchen countertops. Back to the studio for design!

Which font to use? Which creatures to represent? Which words, how to place them on each stone? 

A tracing of each stone allows me to test ideas and designs. Two copies of this map are needed: one to go to the fabricators who will engrave the stones,  and one set for me to use on the site while I design and prepare the placements of each piece.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

inspiration and integration

 This alluring little park, with its elfin pond, has been nurtured by many people over the years.  Layers of history and affection - some visible, some consumed by the grasses - give it a lush personality.

As the current public artist in this park, as the newest in a lineage of caregivers, I want my design to respect this history. Observing the textures, materials, forms that are here now, I will design my additions to complement and enrich this sanctuary.

Black granite bench, etched with a family's loving words
Regional field-stone. A teacher worked with students to design and build this pond, not so many years ago.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Creating the model

It can be useful and fun to make a model for any 3-D project; but for a public artwork it is an essential tool. Here is one of my early "sketch" models for this project.

A sketch, or rough draft, model  allows me to test ideas quickly. I'm looking at the proportions, the construction issues, the kinds of materials that I might use, the potential challenges.

In this model, the tubes represent 12" diameter Sonotube concrete forms. (Yes, they are toilet paper tubes; the scale here is: one TP tube to one foot).  The black shapes on top of the short pillars represent dark granite or marble, engraved with words and images that reflect the importance of the pond and habitat.  Examples might include images of the creatures that inhabit this habitat, which the youth are studying. Pond snails, frogs, minnows, butterflies, trees, plants...

The rough cardboard shapes represent the kind of stone and boulders which currently surround the pond. I'd like to find more of these, so that the stone at the outfall will be similar to the stone at the pond.

Monday, April 16, 2012

outreach: Science Fest!

These bright young girls are enjoying Science Festival, a free community event that pairs the arts and sciences, on the lawn in front of McColl Center for Visual Art.

Artists at the McColl Center are encouraged to do outreach, in service to the community of Charlotte. For Science Festival we presented works from the Environmental Artist-in-Residency (EAIR) program. We emphasized the ecological sciences, especially: watershed conservation, water quality, wildlife habitat, healthy soils, and healthy trees.

We are standing in front of a map of the Little Sugar Creek watershed, showing the location of four E-AIR projects, with images and information about the works.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

We all share the same water.

We all share the same water.

A story floats lightly behind my fondness for this phrase. Recently I traveled to New Zealand with a few members of my close family; we went to reunite with family who live "Down Under".

 While there, I met a Maori artist, a gentle and lovely person. (Maori are the indigenous culture living in New Zealand). He wanted to know about the land where I came from; I described the rural coastal area outside of Seattle, on the Pacific Ocean.

The saltwater beach near my home on the Olympic Peninsula, Washington.
Part of an ongoing series of rituals and works about water.
photo: Jessica Plumb Productions
"Ahhhh," he said warmly, "We share the same Ocean!".

He said this with such evident warmth and pleasure, startling to my American ears, that I felt as though I had been invited into his family.

Site insights

It is important to understand the site on many levels. Who uses and cares for this place ... both human and other-than-human creatures? What does the site feel like, at different times of day? What are the ecological and aesthetic qualities of the site, including the strengths and the challenging problems?

I begin by making a map, using compass and ruler, some graph paper and a long tape measure. It takes a lot of time, but during this time I begin to understand the site intimately.
Then, those messy field scribblings go back to the studio, and are translated into this larger map. This drawing is 3 1/2 feet tall by 5 feet wide.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I am working with 7th and 8th grade students at Trinity Episcopal School. These boys, and the others, are studying some of the flora and fauna of the pond: small fish, pond snails, lily pads, duckweed, nearby trees and insects and more. It's wonderful that they are able to use the pond as an outdoor classroom, learning to take data and write original reports.

Site Selection

Here is the site I will be working on during this three-month residency.

This black-plastic pipe is the drainage outfall from a parking lot at the Trinity Episcopal School.  The drainage flows into a swale and a stormwater retention pond. Students use the pond as an outdoor classroom, studying the flora, fauna, chemistry.

The issues that need to be addressed with this Eco-art project include:

- slowing down the stormwater during rain events. The fast flow causes erosion, and moves too quickly into the pond. The stormwater carries pollutants and sediments from the parking lot, so we want the stormwater to slow down and pool up before it gets to the pond. This allows the sediments  and heavy metals to settle out .... thus, the water in the pond will be cleaner, allowing critters and plants to flourish.

- also, the pipe and rubble are just plain ugly!

good morning, Charlotte

Wow! My first impressions of Charlotte ... Lush, velvety, vibrant greens everywhere. Joyful songbirds, singing brightly. Kind people. And warm sunshine! I've left a cool and rainy Pacific Northwest, so it is 30 degrees warmer here.