Looking skyward for optimism with illuminated aerial sculptures


This summer, many cities in North America are bringing innovative and contemporary art to their city through free, temporary exhibitions engaging people in meaningful experiences, interactions and dialogue. The work of one artist in particular seems to resonate with three major North American cities as they have selected the illuminated aerial sculptures of Janet Echelman.

Boston and Seattle in the US as well as Montreal Canada are inviting everyone to look skyward for optimism.

Boston, Massachussets

In Boston the installation As If It Were Already Here, floats over The Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy until October 2015.


“My sculpture for Boston above the Rose Kennedy Greenway spans the void where an elevated highway once split downtown from its waterfront. Knitting together the urban fabric, it soars 600 feet through the air above street traffic and Pedestrian Park.”


The American artist further explained where she found her inspiration. “The sculpture’s form echoes the history of its location. The three voids recall the “Tri-Mountain” which was razed in the 18th-Century to create lands from the harbor. The colored banding is a nod to the six traffic lanes that once overwhelmed the neighborhood, before the Big Dig buried them and enable the space to be reclaimed for urban pedestrian life.”

Seattle, Washington

Downtown Seattle has a permanent sculpture entitled “Impatient Optimist” commissioned  for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation campus in Seattle.


The sky was a source of inspiration as was the foundation’s mission of uniting people all over the world in common goals of good health and respecting the environment.

For this installation Janet Echelman decided to emulate the combination of hues at sunrise from their regional offices from New Delhi to London, Beijing to Seattle, and the gradual changes in colors.

Interestingly, to generate the basis for this delicate yet voluminous form Echelman photographed the Seattle sky every five minutes for an entire day. Then her team analysed the color data and graphed the results radially.

“During the day, the sculpture’s hue interplay with the changing colors of the sky.”


“At night, Impatient Optimist slowly shifts from vibrant pinks to soft blues to bright oranges in an elaborate lighting sequence that mirrors in real time the colors of the sunrise at the foundation’s regional offices in India, Africa, China, the U.K. and Washington D.C.”

Montreal, Quebec

For the inauguration of her temporary art structure in Montreal, Janet Echelman’s organic and fluid installation “1.26” served in the revitalization of the Gamelin Gardens in the heart of the city.


The title of the art work is in reference to the 2010 Chile earthquake, and the resulting 1.26 microsecond shortening of the Earth’s day. The sculpture’s three-dimensional form reflects Echelman’s mapping of tsunami wave heights across an entire ocean. This very specific number symbolises the connection between individuals no matter where they are on the planet.

Since Montréal is such a dynamic, vibrant and cosmopolitan city, the sculpture seems to move in the wind like a choreography always changing just like a relationship.

«1.26» was previously installed in Denver, Sydney, Amsterdam and Singapore.

The artist says «The sculpture takes on a different meaning in each city depending on the urban context. Without the city, it becomes less interesting to me. »


Janet Echelman’s work comes to life when juxtaposed with urban architecture. At night some of her floating art forms are highlighted by LEDs while others benefit from computerized lighting effects.

Kudos to Boston, Seattle and Montreal for beautifying their public spaces and creating must-see art experiences for everyone to enjoy. What a wonderful way of bringing people together.

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