Janet Echelman is a multimedia artist whose focus and experimentation on the other side of the globe led to some fascinating mastery of installation art. Specifically, it is her colorful nets that hang between buildings and/or in public spaces that capture attention and wonder. In addition to this notoriety, Echelman has been the recipient of multiple honors of public recognition, such as the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Harvard University Loeb Fellowship, a Fulbright Lectureship, and the Aspen Institute Crown Fellowship. She also conducted a TED talk–“Taking Imagination Seriously”–that has since been translated in 34 languages and has been viewed over a million times.
The installations–net-like sculptures woven from materials like polyester twine and polyethylene ropes–are designed to be strong yet effortless, and are suspended in place between rigid buildings as they respond to natural occurrences such as weather and sunlight. She was inspired to use nets as a new approach to volumetric, imposing sculptures after observing some local fisherman with their nets while in India during her Fulbright fellowship. After collaborating with these fisherman and hoisting the resulting sculptures on poles, she realized that the lightness of the material made capturing the subtle movements of the wind possible. In the installation, “As If It Were Already Here,” the construction of the strands of rope respond to differences between day–when it appears transparent and casts a shadow below it–and night–when it is illuminated and appears as a sheet billowing in the wind.
This particular work is a reflection of its Boston, Massachusetts location above the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The form of the sculpture is reminiscent of the hill that once stood on the now-flattened site, and the streams of color are a nod to the traffic lanes that used to be a feature on Boston’s elevated highways before being scrapped in favor of an underground highway in central Boston.