In the Sonoran Desert the sky remains a consistent source for cultural expression, made evident by its awesome beauty and the way the desert plays with the light but also by its necessity for rain, nourishment and shelter. The adulation of clouds in the desert arts is one part worship, one part survival.
For this project we once again take on the problem of building structures informed by clouds and in particular their color as it is perceived in the desert sun. The result is a series of eighteen hanging constructions called Cloud Weave that is a permanent installation in the Carolyn Pope Edwards Hall at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This work is a continuation of our ongoing collaboration with Tohono O’odham artist, educator, and activist Terrol Dew Johnson.
Nine different color palettes are determined through a process that mixes machine learning and intuitive hand picking. Each palette contains seven colors selected from a generated image of a Sonoran sky. The image is produced by an ML algorithm trained on a database of photographs collected from local social media. These RGB values are then translated into a metal finish that is a patina/oxide pigment hybrid, hand mixed in 63 different colors. The following application was developed to assist in the construction:
arrow keys to rotate view
‘g’ regrows geometry
‘i’ saves image
‘o’ saves .obj
Each Cloud Weave is made by bringing together modular arcs into bundles that ensure variation and rigidity.
INSTALLATION AT UNL
Cloud Weave is permanently installed in the Carolyn Pope Edwards Hall at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Together the eighteen baskets float through the space like clouds, each changing in response to the light throughout the day.
The eighteen different Cloud Weaves are made of over a mile of ⅛” steel round bar. The steel is coiled, cut and welded into delicate bundles of strands that join and diverge based on a structurally resilient geometry.
THE BASKETS PROJECT
In the baskets of the Tohono O’odham tribe, weaving is embodied by the coil. The act of coiling begins with a central point around which a bundle of material is wound, spiraling outward and upward in concentric circles to create a structural surface.
Coiling generates form through pattern–an algorithm–building on a set of principles that can be manipulated to generate shape. Coiling is a structural strategy for producing functional objects, but it is also a ritual for connecting the weaver to their community, elders, and surrounding desert environment. I
The Baskets project began in 2007 at Artists Space in New York and continues to this day. They have been shown at the MoMA, Institute of American Indian Arts, MOCA Tucson, Chicago Biennial, Volume Gallery, Sarasota Museum of Art among others. Several works from the Baskets project are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Denver Art Museum, the Heard Museum, and The Art Institute of Chicago.