“Tapestry” by Douwe Blumberg

Proposed concept artist’s narrative

During my exploration of the site and surrounding neighborhoods, I was powerfully struck by the diversity of both the community and the physical neighborhoods. I was looking for something that would really quantify the area for me. This proved elusive until I realized that this aspect was precisely what made this group of neighborhoods unique. There are working-class neighborhoods. There are retail areas. There are corporate and warehousing areas. There are service businesses, all bisected by extremely heavily trafficked roads populated and traveled by people of vastly different ethnicities, cultural backgrounds and life experiences. 

The idea planted in my head that this place was like a giant, colorful tapestry made up of myriad diverse parts, all forming the whole. This idea has informed the concept proposal described below.

My goals for this artwork are many, but three stand above the rest. First, I want to create an artwork which resonates with the vibe of the area: something that somehow encapsulates what I found unique about this diverse collection of neighborhoods and peoples. Second,I want to create an artwork that would feel “organic” to the traffic circle. It should fill a body of space that harmonizes with that type of site and should be quickly and easily experienced from 360 degrees, all while responding to the physical and safety requirements of a traffic circle. Finally,I simply want to bring to these communities a world-class piece of art, one that would easily grace the front of any fine art museum in the world.

My proposal’s working title, “Tapestry,” reflects the artistic vision and message underlying the work. A monumentally-scaled racial/gender-neutral face hovers in the center of the traffic circle. The piece is constructed from thousands of cast aluminum alloy rings of varying sizes to create a matrix skin like a flat piece of chain mail through which light can travel, giving the work a fascinating and unique visual aspect during both day and night. The face comprises of separate linear segments, each of different finishes: dark bronze, gold, silver and copper. Each segment forms a part of the face. The ends of each segment trail off into abstract and flowing “ribbons,” which wrap around to outline the vague shape of the head and to mirror the spiraling frenetic movement of the traffic circle while also creating visual movement, interest and “lead-in” toward the face from all angles.  

The face segments are held in place, six feet above ground-level by a central structural post and radiating smaller posts allowing complete freedom of vision beneath the piece across the traffic circle island. The piece will stand approximately 19 feet tall, making it extremely large and colorful; two very important requirements in such a visually complex site. It also conveniently raises the piece high enough to discourage vandalism and climbing.

The rings are cast in an aircraft aluminum/magnesium alloy of great strength, lightness and corrosion resistance. Except for the silver segment, each segment is painted using automotive coatings to mimic the above-mentioned metals. This will result in a work requiring minimal maintenance other than the occasional power-washing to remove airborne contaminants.

I wanted to create a work here that is visually unique and large in scope and scale. I also wanted to create something that spoke directly to the surrounding communities. These communities are not fundamentally composed of houses, business and warehouses; they are composed of people. People living their lives. People from many walks of life, histories, ethnicities and life experiences. All of these things flowing together form what we call communities and neighborhoods. This is reflected in “Tapestry.” Many diverse parts fitting together form the whole image. Without each other, the individual parts don’t make sense, but when harmonized constructively, a beautiful image takes shape. The wild movement reflects both the frenetic movement of the traffic and the pulsing, searching energy of the surrounding communities.

To say I am excited about this concept is an understatement. From the moment the idea began to form in my head I have been wildly excited about it. The more I played with the concept, the more it just naturally seemed to create itself, which is always a powerful sign. In short, I feel this piece is completely unique; artistically, structurally and visually. It is a contemporary work, which simply feels “right” for a traffic circle and the fusion of abstract with representational styles will allow it to appeal to an extremely wide demographic.