A new City of Sacramento library near Cosumnes River College is currently
under construction, with a commitment to LEED certification. I was awarded a wonderful and very unique space, a children's reading room which also functions as part of the ventilation system. It's an amazing opportunity for me to create an entire installation. I'm
hoping to instill a sense of magic and wonder for both children and adults. http://www.saclibrary.org/new_projects/valleyhi.html
Have you ever been to a Butterfly House? My first experience was in Vienna, 2000, and the second was in St. Louis, 2007. First, you enter into a tiny barrier space, and then into a warm, humid, atmosphere filled with exotic plants....and butterfies. They are everywhere, and they land all over everyone. It's the most magical experience.
I came home this afternoon, turned on KVIE to the most glorious Nova special on Monarch butterflies. Do yourself a favor. Take an hour, yes, almost an hour, to watch the video on line. If you have a mac, you can still download the Windows software.
To quote the director, Nick de Pencier, who has a fascinating story all by himself, the journey is about the "mythic, magical quality of the migration." I've been making butterflies. Of course, they won't fly on their own, and they certainly won't be making a 2,000 mile migration to Mexico.
If you have the interest, but not the time, here is an abbreviated summary:
A caterpillar sheds skin 4 times & on the 5th becomes a crystallis for 10 days and then a butterfly, emerging to dry it's wings. Then 100 million butterflies migrate from southern Canada over 2,000 miles south, over the Great Lakes, deserts, into Mexico, down the Sierra Madres, to the Michoacan and Mexico reserves, over 2 months at 50 miles/day. No one knows how they do this, or how they fly back. Some fly to other places, like Santa Cruz, but the Mexican migration is the longest, most impressive. They cluster in forests to stay over the 5 coldest months, and then turn around, fly off again, mating and dying and birthing for three more generations, until they reach Canada again. It's a singularly unique event in the entire animal kingdom.
THE CONCEPT- January 2009
California has always attracted a variety
of immigrating people and creatures. The butterfly, and especially the Monarch is a symbol, not only of migration, but of transition and adaptation. Language and cultures have melded into what appears at times to be chaos, but might also appear as a cocoon. I was inspired by the Butterfly House in
Vienna, as well as the intimate and curved shape of the space. The ambient air moving through will cause the suspended and tensioned elements to quiver gently.
The Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission chooses three artists to compete for each space. We each submit a written concept paper and a scale model. This image is of the model where I suspended tiny ceramic elements and beads to represent the butterflies.
Digital image by Rachel Glabe Taylor
MAKING THE BUTTERFLIES- February
I've been making butterflies for awhile now. The activity falls under the heading of obsessive-compulsive behavior, which is fine with me because there's no other way when I have so very many to make. Each basic shape is rolled and cut by hand- what else? Then I have a collection of stamps that I've made from my family's silver. I like the idea of using images from past generations to come into contemporary time. I used the same stamps on the Scott's installation.
Adding subtle color also emphasizes the patterns on the stamps and other spontaneous marks. Loading the kiln, and firing. A few hundred down, thousands to go.
THE CONSTRUCTION PHASE- site visits, March
Yesterday, I made my second site visit to the Library project. The outside of the building is wrapped now so the spaces are more easily comprehended. This is the approach into the Children's Room.
I brought a test sample of butterflies to hang in the space which has a large window looking West. The exterior wall wraps around just far enough to shelter the room from the summer setting sun. The is a LEED building, with many impressive green features.
We discussed issues such as sheet metal reinforcement between the metal studs, lighting height and specs, and the date that the contractor expects to turn the building over to the client, the City of Sacramento.
This combined image is a process by which I'll decide where to install the hardware on the walls and on the soffit above. I'll be adding measurements for the contractor to show him where I want the sheet metal to be installed. Drywall curves over the metal, and then the very elegant museum quality tensioning devices will be installed. From each of these, placed all around the walls and on the soffit, 17'4" from the floor, steel cable will be tensioned diagonally from one side to the other, like a cocoon. The ceramic butterflies and elements will attach to the cables and to the wall surfaces.
Back to the studio, testing on the wall.
The contractor has installed the reinforcement, and the drywall starts today.
SITE VISIT MAY 3rd
This week's New Yorker shows a butterfly visiting a construction worker on a high rise. Nice.
I made a visit to the site to spend some time contemplating the space and talked to the architect for awhile. The building is stunning. The entrance is on the East side, so to get to the Children's Tower you pass through the entire length of the building, past soaring north windows, exposed construction and natural materials. A lower portion of the hallway hides the ventilation system that feeds into the Tower.
My installation will start on that ceiling, about 6' from the open entrance.
Once inside, the installation will be suspended from steel cable and tensioning elements.
West light floods the room with the curves extending past the window, sheltering the room from the setting sun. The light will change dramatically as the day passes, and then again at night under artificial lighting. There is no way I can visualize how to respond to this before all fixtures are installed, as well as the ceiling skin.
SITE VISIT JUNE
A 4th site visit revealed a lot of progress on the facility. Signage is up, walls are painted. It's a really beautiful structure.
The walls are sweeping, covered partially by sound insulation.
The natural light floods the room though no sun will penetrate directly into the room.
These are the ventilation blowers which will pull recirculated air from the building into this space, and up and out above. The ambient air will move the suspended butterfly elements.
INSTALLATION PHASE 1: tensioning devices July 14th
The first stage in the installation of the butterflies is to attach the amazing tensioning devices by Arakawa into the reinforced walls. Each device is anchored through the drywall and sheet metal reinforcement by specially designed mollies. The steel cable is pulled through each device and can be adjusted as needed before, during and after the installation of the butterflies.
The drop ceiling is 17' from the floor. Rick Jacobs is helping me on this phase. We have to position the cables to allow for future maintenance access. The tape on the walls tells us where the reinforcement has been installed.
I've added a few butterflies as tests.