Ann Arbor's Lynda Cole reflects on success at ArtPrize
Cole made a much smaller version that hung in WSG last year, but she wanted to go bigger for ArtPrize. The artwork’s size, 10 cubic feet suspended from the ceiling, “made a big difference because people could get close enough to it to lose track of the walls and the floor,” she explains. She can envision making it even bigger and might try to make a room-sized version that people could walk into.
“People lose track of everything but the motion and reflection. It’s very meditative,” Cole says.
Lynda Cole’s kinetic sculpture, "Rain," spun around and shimmered in the Van Andel Museum Center at ArtPrize 2011.
Making "Rain" was a labor-intensive process. All in all, the artwork comprises 7,600 little squares of polyester film covered in silver leaf. She spent a vacation bending wire. The shimmering pieces, which appeared more gold than silver in the warm light of Grand Rapids' public museum, hung on 400 strings. It took Cole and her husband three days to install. She started constructing it in May and finished a few weeks before ArtPrize by spending full workdays on the project.
The process of making it was very repetitive, but Cole likes that. “To some people the repetitiveness would be torture, but not for me. It’s meditative to repeat and repeat, over and over,” she says.
At ArtPrize, “some people would stand up real close to it and have this look like they were hypnotized,” as the hanging pieces sparkled and spun in the ambient air flow in the gallery space. Sometimes she would push it around to get it spinning. A gallery security guard got involved by getting people to walk around the piece to make it spin and twinkle.
“I watched them standing there looking very peaceful, almost meditating on it,” Cole says. “People kept telling me they got drawn in by the motion, reflection, and repetition. It was successful in that way, beyond my wildest dreams.”
There was one type of audience interaction that Cole didn’t anticipate that she laughs about: “Some people actually got a little seasick and had to back off a bit. And some of the teenagers used it to get dizzy on purpose, which was a little bit funny!”
There is not much of a “story” behind the piece; it’s not something people are meant to “get” on an intellectual level. As an artist, Cole is much more interested in form, geometry, and the visual qualities of materials. She likes how the physical characteristics of her artworks evoke emotion in people. That’s her main goal.
“I don’t know if my love of geometry came from this or not, but I studied textiles and clothing in college, and there are an awful lot of grids in textiles. But I think I’ve just always liked a little order in things—nothing too chaotic, except for maybe the curves of waves on water,” she says.
Cole is frequently influenced by nature. “A lot of times colors in nature will inspire me, and I get a lot of my lines from nature,” she says. Aside from her ArtPrize piece reminding her of rain, she says it is also like “a controlled fire that you sit and stare at.”
After ArtPrize ended, "Rain" went into boxes she is storing it at a friend’s house. She plans to tweak it a bit and start looking for the next place to display it. Cole has already had a couple artworks put in hospitals and thinks "Rain" would be a good fit for a place where “people are trying to decompress and find a moment of peace,” she says.
A series of Lynda Cole’s encaustic artworks (a technique using wax), “Expressions of Color,” are currently on display at the Kerrytown Concert House through Oct. 31.