A sculpture made of a hundred miles of rope netting floats above Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway. Artist Janet Echelman, who has created dozens of these massive, suspended sculptures, was first inspired by the nets of Indian fishermen. Her Boston sculpture, “As If It Were Already Here,” is composed of colored twine and lit at night.
Echelman’s sculptures are an experience of wind and sky in an urban environment. Describing in a TED Talk the first time she stood beneath her Porto, Portugal sculpture, Echelman says, “As I watched the wind’s choreography unfold, I felt sheltered and, at the same time, connected to limitless sky.”
This heightened awareness of wind and sky provide san invitation to wonder. Echelman describes the reaction of some of Phoenix’s inhabitants to her sculpture for the city.
An attorney in the office who’d never been interested in art, never visited the local art museum, dragged everyone she could from the building and got them outside to lie down underneath the sculpture. There they were in their business suits, laying in the grass, noticing the changing patterns of wind beside people they didn’t know, sharing the rediscovery of wonder.
The rediscovery of wonder is elemental to Echelman’s work. Looking at the fluid forms amidst geometric high-rises, is reminiscent of a scene in Terrence Malik’s The Tree of Life, where an enormous cloud of birds moves around the tops of skyscrapers. Like Echelman’s sculptures, the flowing form is not merely set against the architecture, but transforms an everyday sight. Scenes like this led to the film (sometimes negatively) being described as a prayer, but if it is a prayer, it addresses God through the wonder found in this world.
Echelman’s installations locate the transcendent experience of wonder securely in the everyday, confronting us as we commute or look out our office windows.