Public Art Projects / Shelby Park, Nashville Tennessee
Bird - Size: 13ft x 12ft x 4ft / Material: Stainless Steel
Wall - Size: 11ft x 11ft x 3ft, 6in / Material: Black Chinese Granite
Location: Metropolitan Arts Commission of Nashville & Davidson County, Shelby Park, Nashville Tennessee
I started to discover some wonderful marvels whilst digging through searches on Shelby Park’s history. These included: Nashville Street Railway, a Casino, Amusement park and The Old Timers Baseball Facility.
The amusement park component seduced me. The wonder, excitement and fun that is brought to mind for all.
The Amusement Park : It is implied to be a joyous place, from which, each of us have vivid potent memories. And at another angle, the toys, trophies and the games that set the visual cacophony into a gestalt of tactile embrace, led me to unravel my initiating concepts.
Considering the present and forward preservation of Shelby Bottoms, I could not deny the importance of nature and the incredible population of birds and other wildlife. Knowing the state bird is the Mocking bird, I felt compelled to further explore this subject in my conceptual framework. The Mocking bird is one that can mimic all sorts of sounds in which to create it’s song. The great ornithologist Wilson writes this about the mockingbird’s song,” “With expanded wings and tail glistening with white, and the buoyant gayety of his action arresting the eye, as his song does most irresistibly the ear, he sweeps around with enthusiastic ecstasy, and mounts and descends as his song swells or dies away. And he often deceives the sportsman, and sends him in search of birds that are not perhaps within miles of him, but whose notes he exactly imitates.”
Quite the playful talent I would say. With this amazingly gifted creature in mind, my thoughts wander back to the site’s history of an amusement park. I thought of reflections, visions, engagement and the associations of going to an amusement park and the parallel enjoyment of experiencing any park. I started drawing reflective mirrors and fun house distortions, which then evolved, into a wall with waves and swirls that would distort the surrounding landscape. My previous experience with stone led me to connecting this dialogue to the physical. Black granite with its’ remarkable, reflective quality, when polished, was the obvious choice. I love the fact of using a material that can embody the rich mystery of seductive reflection.
Similarly, the mockingbird needed to exude a mirrored quality just as it absorbs sounds and creates a unique song, so do the mirrored reflections create a new vista. Not underplaying the relationship to sport, I wished to create something that was reminiscent of the “trophy” but signified a much larger potential in it. Having this bird appear to be mercurious and liquid, like it physically manifests itself and then cycles through an appearance and disappearance, was made viable by the material choice of polished stainless steel. I modeled the bird and perched this gigantic abstract specimen on a piece of granite carved with the form that is the reflection, or negative of the opposing wall. The bird appears to have interest in the hole, the wall and melody of surface treatment and the fascination with reflections. Is it looking at the form as a point of intrigue, curiosity and passage or is it the association of hole and nest that triggers a view to home and comfort? Regardless, the swirling movement terminating into a vortex or hole suggests curiosity and passage. Just as the visitors enter the site possibly sparked by necessity, curiosity or to be playful as a mocking bird, ready for potential.
Visual play and whimsy are conjured with a poetic metaphor of reflection. The two pieces symbiotically encompass possibilities of reflecting and the acts of reflective thinking. Reflection is a form of personal response to experiences, situations, events or new information. It is a ‘processing’ phase where thinking and learning take place. There is neither a right nor a wrong way of reflective thinking, there are just questions to explore.