At first glance it might look like a multicolored data graph, or a cross-section of mountain ridgeline. But then a breeze blows and suddenly it’s a giant Chinese dragon in a rainbow of hues, undulating through the air over the canal.
Stretching for three football fields along the Scottsdale Waterfront, “Reflection Rising” is the latest large-scale project commissioned by Scottsdale Public Art. Made of thousands of nylon streamers designed to take the air like a kite, it’s the brainchild of Los Angeles-based artist Patrick Shearn, whose massive art-meets-engineering creations have been seen at the Burning Man festival in Nevada, the 2008 Beijing Olympics and all around the world.
“I was turned on by schools of fish underwater and how they move in concert, and I was very turned on by wind blowing through fields of wheat … and by the murmuration of birds, the clouds of starlings that flock together and you see these amazing patterns happening in the sky,” Shearn says.
“You’re unaware of the actual physical tethers, so that this thing appears to be out there in space behaving on its own.”
Los Angeles artist Patrick Shearn and his company Poetic Kinetics created “Reflection Rising” for Scottsdale’s annual Canal Convergence festival. (Photo: Kerry Lengel/The Republic)
It took nearly a week for workers to assemble the sculpture, suspended from nearly invisible wires, earlier this month. “Reflection Rising” will stay up through the sixth annual Canal Convergence event in late February and early March.
Sponsored in part by the Salt River Project, the late-winter waterfront festival started as a way to jazz up the empty canal during a maintenance project. It features immersive art installations, often designed to shine at night, as well as live performances.
“It’s about art, light and water,” says Scottsdale Public Art director Kim Curry-Evans. But this year organizers wanted something that would look great during the day and serve as a teaser leading up to the main event.
Raised as a “hippie kid” in Colorado, Shearn got both the art and engineering genes from his parents, who built their own abstract sculpture of a house. As a teenager, he moved to Alaska, where he worked on fishing boats and in construction.
“My boss was also an artist, and we together did stuff on the weekends, like dig an Olympic-size swimming pool because we could,” he says.
Knowing how to operating heavy machinery came in handy for his first big project, an 80-foot boom lift dressed up as a giant moving flower for Burning Man. That led to a contract to create two giant marionettes, operated from cranes, for the Beijing Summer Games.
“We had to start a company” — Poetic Kinetics — “to do it, so we could, like, pay people in Chinese money and all the stuff that you have to do,” Shearn says. “And it’s just taken off from there.”
Poetic Kinetics has installed Shearn’s kite sculptures in cities around the world, including in LA, where the silvery “Liquid Shard” had a “guerilla install” last year at Pershing Square downtown.
“Reflection Rising” is a large-scale sculpture by artist Patrick Shearn in downtown Scottsdale. (Photo: Scottsdale Public Art)
“They hadn’t told the security guards in the morning that it was going to be there, and there was no plaque, there was no apparent story to it, but surrounding this park were all these skyscrapers with offices, and it exploded on the Internet,” the artist says.
“One video got to 35 million views and 500,000 shares. That was just one video. And my phone started ringing. I was going to bed every night with hundreds of emails I hadn’t gotten to that day. I didn’t have any infrastructure, I had like one employee. And in this last year, I’ve installed in Kazakhstan, in Manila, in St. Petersburg, Russia. I’m flying all over the world, and it’s just like this amazing explosion.”
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-4896. Follow him at facebook.com/LengelOnTheater and twitter.com/KerryLengel.
Canal Convergence Water + Art + Light
When: 4-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 23-March 3.
Where: Scottsdale Waterfront, Camelback and Scottsdale roads.
Article by AZ Central