“Around the Bend” opened on Nov. 3rd, 2018. The piece was conceptualized and constructed by artists and winners of the 2017 Off the Grid Art Installation contest. Sitting atop the highest point of our Open Air Art Museum, the piece was designed to accentuate the colors and curvatures of the surrounding landscape and is truly admiring of Northeast Ohio’s rolling hillsides.
“Joining forces for this piece came about rather quickly. In discovering the GCAC Off the Grid Competition in Columbus Underground we found our opportunity to collaborate as designers and fabricators, outside of the field of architecture, our professional focus. Inspired by our individual pursuits in construction, structures, and glass we derived a design that took advantage of the site, took cues from nature and allowed us to work with a wide variety of colleagues in the fabrication.
“Sourcing all of the recycled glass from the Honey Run site allowed the piece to have both a future and a past that connects it to the site. In the end, the ultimate goal was to be able to build with our hands what we had derived on paper. In building mockups, crushing bottles, pouring the glass, drilling disks, welding steel and fastening pipes we took every advantage of existing techniques and materials to create something unique.”
– Brian Sell, Joel Burke, and Jim Lehnert
You come around the bend and in the distance, a solitary tree sits upon a hill. For generations this imagery has inspired a certain amount of curiosity and wonder. Perhaps it is a place of respite from the heat of a summer day, the strongest of its family to hold out against harsh prairie storms, or a destination to allow your mind to wander while you contemplate your day. You are drawn to the dancing rays of light amongst the leaves, the ripples of colors in a glassy nearby creek, the framed vistas of the rolling landscape beyond. The amazing ephemeral qualities of our natural environment are something that cannot simply be copied but rather interpreted.
Our piece looks to evoke some of these same emotions. ‘Around the Bend’ consists of a simple yet dynamically twisting steel structure supporting a vast collection of handmade recycled glass disks reminding the visitor of the inspirational elegance of their surroundings as well as the important message of hand craft and environmental respect. These disks have been forged from glass recycled from the nearby Inn allowing every visitor to literally contribute to the piece. Like these visitors, each disk is unique but as a whole they create a community that interacts with the changing light, seasonal colors and the glistening of the periodic rain.
‘Around the Bend’ is meant to be discovered and contemplated; as you emerge from the protection of the forest canopy above and make your way into the undulating grasslands it emerges as your destination. You move towards it, noticing the way the light interacts with the hundreds of glass discs. The structure behind, although subtly obscured by the disks, elegantly twists providing the structure for the piece as it reaches out over you casting colorful shadows on your route. The path bends sharply and you begin to move around the piece experiencing an ever changing collection of colors and reflections. You may sit for a moment and notice the intricacies of the individual elements, each unique. As you move back into the forest you glance back one final time to notice the piece atop the hill, gleaming in the rays of the sunlight.
Although our professional careers have revolved around architecture, the thread that unites us, we each have had our own experiences within the larger world of art, design and fabrication. Coming from a collective background at an architecture firm in Columbus, OH we eventually ventured out on different paths but always knew that the ability to collaborate, outside the realm of architecture, was something that interested us. When this opportunity presented itself it was a great chance to test how the diverse talents of our group would help shape a collective vision with a powerful story.
Brian Sell was recently recognized as the winner of the Nelson Mandela Memorial competition to be installed in northern California. His devotion to the way the natural elements shape our experiences helped frame the concept for the piece. Jim Lehnert has devoted the last 10 years to the investigation and experimentation in the world of glass artistry. His experience with the physics of glass and focus on environmental sensitivity allowed us the opportunity to explore the benefits of using recycled glass. Joel Burke has a passion for fabrication with a series of design build efforts at a variety of scales. His focus on prototyping, assembly and construction helped shaped how the piece was developed.