ART TO GO Installations in El Paso, Texas’s transit shelters allow riders to reconnect with nature
“Leaves of Wind” is a series of public art installations incorporated into the 20 transit shelters on the first line of new Brio Rapid Transit System in El Paso, Texas: the Mesa corridor. This route serves an area that has been paved over and built up, rendering nature invisible amidst signs for fast-food restaurants, gas stations and businesses.
When artist Catherine Widgery was approached by El Paso’s Museums and Cultural Affairs department to create a series of artworks for the Mesa corridor, her first thought was, “How can art even be seen in this environment?”
Her solution was to create “Leaves of Wind,” a series of custom-fabricated metal screens, integrated into the station architecture and featuring different dramatic images of local flora. By vastly enlarging images of local plants and flowers, Widgery created fresh and distinct stations. These shelters provide riders with respite from the blazing Texas sun and inspire people to reconnect with nature and examine the commonplace more closely.
At the heart of the concept for “Leaves of Wind” are the ideas of time, motion and our perceptions of the physical world around us. We often overlook what is immediately before us because the human mind manages visual overload by editing out the familiar. To overcome this phenomenon, Widgery had the photographs printed on the inside faces of the aluminum screens that run horizontally through the shelters. The images appear and disappear as riders approach and depart from the stations.
By designing the images to wink in and out of view, she used motion and surprise to encourage riders’ awareness of the beautiful local flowers and plants. Each station creates a lively, colourful and cooling visual environment, a virtual “garden” for those waiting in the shelters. Widgery selected plants from each season and arranged them so that riders travelling the entire length of the corridor will experience the full seasonal cycle along their trip.
She forged partnerships with an experienced team of specialists to realize “Leaves of Wind.” Collaborating with Carl Daniel Architects to integrate aluminum shade screens into the station architecture, they designed shade screens that allow cooling breezes to blow through the stations while providing Widgery with a “canvas” for her artworks.
To gather her images, she enlisted Patrick Walker, a young local photographer she mentored through a training program run by the El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs department. She selected images from Walker’s photography of plants taken over the course of a year and consulted with Deborah Blea Hradek, a landscape architect, to confirm that these plant species were common locally.
She coordinated production of the works with 3D virtual modelling expert Isadore Michas, grating manufacturer Ohio Gratings Inc., and the printing professionals at Prolab Digital Imaging. After the stations were assembled, Widgery and a team of local artists touched up each station by hand.
ALL ABOUT CATHERINE WIDGERY
Catherine Widgery’s practice of creating site-specific art works for the public realm spans over 30 years. She has built her career around making public art because she is inspired by the richness of new places and meeting the people who will live with the artwork. Her works support multiple levels of meaning and experience.
Visitors are embraced by her artworks that often exist as shimmering light or movement in a shifting environment. Permeable, dematerialized, appearing and disappearing, her works in the public realm are never the same since it is nature’s energies and the viewer’s participation that determine the art in any given moment.
Widgery and her team have created more than 40 site-specific public art projects across the U.S. and Canada. Her particular interest and strength is working with communities and teams to create environmental sculptural experiences that respond to the unique spirit, shape and function of a place. Wind, light, water and computer-controlled lighting programs communicate energy and animate the space within her environmental works.
In addition to numerous solo and group exhibitions in galleries and museums, her award-winning projects have been featured on the covers of Sculpture, Landscape Architecture, Espace and World Sculpture News magazines.
For more information about the artist, visit www.widgery.com