heARTbeat: Janet Echelman Creates Public Contemplative Experiences

ColumnJanet Echelman is interested in heightening our awareness of the present moment.

Janet Echelman’s large scale aerial installations suggest we reach inward as they inspire us to look up, reminding me of a few lines from an Allen Ginsberg poem.

Live in the physical world
moment to moment
I must put down every recurring thought—
stop every beating second  

She takes her task seriously, proving her abilities to do so by utilizing materials as diverse as fishnet and atomized water particles. She draws inspiration from muses as varied as tsunamis, the pathways of subways, lace makers and the hard edges of urban environments.

Echelman explains her installation (pictured above) in Sydney, Australia:

Tsunami 1.26, 2011, an aerial lace installation, was inspired by the 2010 Chile earthquake’s ensuing tsunami and the 1.26-microsecond shortening of the day that resulted from the earthquake’s redistribution of the Earth’s mass. By meditating on these epiphenomena, the work underscores the interdependence of Earth systems and the global community. It asks the viewer to pause and consider the larger fabric of which they are a part.

My studio created hand-knotted models to achieve the complex shaping of the piece.

Pictured here: Every Beating Second, 2011 – San Francisco, CA

An unlikely sculptor, Echelman was rejected by seven art schools. After painting for 10 years, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship and took off for Bali. As the deadline for her exhibition drew closer, her paints never arrived. Watching the fisherman in her village, she toyed with the idea of a new approach to sculpture. Creating volume without heavy solid materials, she collaborated with fishermen and begin to develop her style.

Today the artist is a working mother who receives commissions worldwide. She is also a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow and has spoken publicly about her work, including a TED talk. One could say, she, like her sculptures, is engineered to move gracefully.

Target Swooping Down…Bullseye!, 2001 – Madrid, Spain

Images via Janet Echelman.  This post inspired by my friend Therese Lahaie

Eco, trends, art, creativity and how they tumble through social media to shape culture fascinate EcoSalon columnist Dominique Pacheco. Her trends blog, mixingreality, speaks to these topics daily, and here at EcoSalon, she takes a weekly look at the intersection of eco and art. We call it heARTbeat.

Dominique Pacheco

Dominique Pacheco is the author of EcoSalon's weekly heARTbeat column.