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Posted on Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 10:32 a.m.

Ann Arbor's Lynda Cole reflects on success at ArtPrize

By Jennifer Eberbach

Ann Arbor artist and WSG Gallery president Lynda Cole says that the way her artwork "Rain" was received at this year’s ArtPrize in Grand Rapids was “beyond my wildest dreams.” Not only did her hanging kinetic sculpture evoke the response from the audience that she had intended, the public voted her into third place and she took home $50,000.

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.



Sat, Oct 22, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

I love this congratulations! It belongs in the city hall!


Sat, Oct 22, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

There was a recent piece about how the arts should have a central place in our school system I think that this article bears that out. The work (judging from the photo of Ms. Cole in close proximity) is larger than a grown woman; I am going to guess by almost double. I am going to say that it is 10 feet tall, measuring from the bottom of the cube (not the floor). From there I am going to guess that it is also 10 feet wide and 10 feet deep. A cube is a very basic geometric shape. That would mean it is 10 by 10 by 10 or 1,000 cubic feet. It is really very cool how art can teach us about math.

David Rhoads

Sat, Oct 22, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

I saw this piece of art on display in Grand Rapids for ArtPrize and it was exactly as Lynda Cole describes it. An amazing, shimmering, slowly moving shapes, which draw you in as if you are a part of "Rain". One could stand at the perimeter for hours and feel increasingly at peace with one's self and the world. Thank you Lynda for creating this delightful piece of art. I am looking forward to seeing it again, when you locate the next display space.


Sat, Oct 22, 2011 : 12:05 p.m.

That looks and sounds terrific. Congratulations to Ms. Cole. What were the other prize winners. It *would* be great to install this somewhere around here, but then again, we could use a *lot* more art in Michigan. A problem I can see with this piece is the durability. I would want to put this in somewhere that kids could enjoy it too - adults shouldn't have all the fun, and part of the value of art is expanding young minds. But it wouldn't take long for a kid with a bad attitude to vandalize this piece. I wonder if it would work as well to hang it just out of reach, somewhere that has periodic air currents to stir the sheets into motion. Or maybe the cable holding the work up could be rotated with a motor.

Alan Goldsmith

Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 6:57 p.m.

Must be some mistake here. We all know, at least our local government art cadre (Ann Arbor Public Art Commission) tells us all the time, that NO ONE in Ann Arbor is making art of any value and we have to go outside of the city and state and country to find art worthy of our public spaces. You need to investigate this artist's claim to be from our city--that CAN'T be right. And the Grand Rapid's ArtPrize program makes our locals look like small town hicks.


Sat, Oct 22, 2011 : 11:57 a.m.

The mistake is that chip in your shoulder.


Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 4:17 p.m.

Wow! Looks amazing.


Fri, Oct 21, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

I bet that wouldn't fit in the city hall lobby, just inside away from the rain garden and storm water fountain. It wouldn't go with those things at all. . .