Janet Echelman ties the world together with sweeping sculptures.
Janet Echelmanâ€™s sculpturesâ€”â€śEvery Beating Second,â€ť at the San Francisco International Airport, or the Teflon-fiber piece â€śShe Changes,â€ť in Porto, Portugalâ€”float above public spaces, drawing the eyes heavenward.
Monumental, yet nearly weightless in appearance, her worksâ€™ apparent simplicityâ€”much of it inspired by traditional fishermenâ€™s nets and weavingâ€”belies extremely complex engineering. To execute each piece, Echelman often collaborates with experts in a broad range of disciplines. In some cases, she has been the first to experiment with cutting-edge materials and technologies being developed at the MIT Media Lab or the Center for Bits and Atoms.
Though the artist has lived all over the worldâ€”including in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, and Indiaâ€”for the moment, sheâ€™s comfortably ensconced in Brookline. â€śThe depth and richness of intellectual life hereâ€”and the accessibilityâ€”is unique,â€ť she says.
Echelmanâ€™s largest studio project yet will be unveiled in 2014. A collaboration between the artist and the custom engineering-software company Autodesk, the sculpture was commissioned to honor TEDâ€™s 30th anniversary in Vancouver. (Her 2011 TED Talk, â€śTaking Imagination Seriously,â€ť has been translated into 33 languages.)
Learn about the many things that inspire Echelmanâ€™s work:
1.Â Building Forts
â€śAs a child, I always enjoyed building forts by stringing up bed sheets and clothes,â€ť Echelman recalls. â€śI continue to be inspired by makeshift structures, including my own kidsâ€™ forts and temporary architecture of all sorts.â€ť
2. Visual Artists
Echelmanâ€™s favorites include Gordon Matta Clark (â€śThe material of the built environment was his canvas,â€ť she says), Louise Bourgeois, Henri Matisse (pictured above), and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio.
â€śI find beauty in everyday actions that have been repeated and refined through the centuries,â€ť she says, â€śfrom the way a fisherman makes his net to the way my neighborhood bakery, Clear Flour, crafts their perfect croissants.â€ť
4.Â UrbanÂ Walking
When Echelman lived in New York City, she and her husband would often walk â€śfifty blocks on a date.â€ť Now she adores â€śmoving from the fish market to the hardware store, chatting with proprietors and neighbors along the way.â€ť
5. Baroque MusicÂ
For Echelman, playing piano pieces from the Baroque period brings her right and left brain together. â€śI love the way a motif will amble from one hand to another,â€ť she says. â€śI often turn to this as a model for how to create counterpoint in the city.â€ť
6. Balinese Festivals
â€śThreading my way through purveyors of sweets and gambling, Iâ€™d enter the temple compound, where the sounds of multiple gamelan orchestras and dance performers mix in the humid air,â€ť Echelman says. â€śThe festivals touch all five senses.â€ť
â€śWhether being battered by the surf or swimming through the gentle undulating surface of lakes, I find inspiration in the movement of water,â€ť Echelman says. â€śSometimes I think about the journey the water has traveled, reconnecting me to the larger cycles of nature.â€ť
What Iâ€™m Watching
â€śTED talks: by spoken-word poet Shane Koyczan, Sir Ken Robinson on why schools kill creativity, and Jill Bolte Taylorâ€™s experience of having a massive stroke and observing her brain functions of motion, speech, and self-awareness shut down.â€ť
What Iâ€™m Drinking
â€śI squeeze half a lemon in a glass, add agave syrup, and fill with bubbly water. I learned to drink this in India as a way to break up the monotony of bottled water.â€ť
What Iâ€™m Eating
â€śStriped eggplant, roasted in my toaster oven with slices of fresh tomato. If I were to write a cookbook, it would be called something like Toaster-Oven Cuisine for Busy Professionals with Little Time but Ample Taste-Bud Expectations.â€ť
Where I’m Traveling
â€śThis summer, I will make stops in Vancouver, Delhi, and Singapore. I spent the bulk of my twenties living in a Bali village, and Iâ€™m looking forward to returning to Southeast Asia and the flow of life there.â€ť
Source URL: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/property/article/2013/06/04/janet-echelman-sculptures-inspiration/