Sky Dance

Sky Dance

Janet Echelman 1.26 Montreal

Janet Echelman, 1.26 Montreal, 2015, Montreal, Canada

Ulysse Lemerise Bouchard, courtesy of Studio Echelman

Look – up in the air. Forget bird or plane. Is it a colossal phantasmagoric jellyfish? A preternatu­rally beautiful UFO? A magnificent mass hallucination?

That diaphanous apparition bil­lowing in the breeze is 1.26, one of Janet Echelman’s acclaimed aerial net sculptures. For the 2010 Bien­nial of the Americas, a gathering of leaders in art, business, and culture in Denver, the city asked the artist to create a work about the intercon­nectedness of the 35 nations of the Western Hemisphere. She used data from that year’s earthquake in Chile, an event so big it shifted the Earth’s axis and shortened the length of each day by 1.26 micro­ seconds. Built of industrial­-strength polyester fiber and lit in colors at night, the piece debuted at the festi­val and has since traveled to cities on five continents, from Sydney to Singapore to Montreal, and recent­ly to the Chilean capital of Santiago.

Originally a painter, Echelman started using openwork fabric to achieve buoyant form more than a decade ago, inspired by fishermen she saw bundling nets on a beach in India. Today, based in Brookline, Massachusetts, she works with software developers and structural engineers to realize her dynamic visions on a skyscraper scale.

By transforming urban airspaces, her “oases of sculpture,” as she has called them, lift us out of the daily grind. In her 2011 TED talk, Echel­man spoke of a lawyer who coaxed co­workers to leave their desks and come outside to see a work of hers. “There they were in their business suits, lying in the grass, noticing the changing patterns of wind, beside people they didn’t know, sharing the rediscovery of wonder.”