A fishing net down at the waterfront doesn’t typically draw a crowd, unless it’s a one ton, 20,250 square foot multi colored weave suspended 365 feet above the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
Inspired by her travels in a fishing village in India, Brookline native Janet Echelman’s vibrant sculpture consists of over 100 miles of rope weaved into over a half million knots.
“I went to teach painting in India on a Fulbright and the paints got lost,” Echelmen said. “So I needed to figure out something out because I had promised the embassy that I would give exhibition but I had no materials or tools, so we had to use what we had.”
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The three voids in the pattern recall the Trimountain of the Shawmut Peninsula, the largest of the three hills which were razed in the 18th century to fill in the land in the harbor area. The design now represents the reclaiming of the land following the completion of Big Dig.
“I used to take string and do Cat’s Cradle when I was younger,” Echelman said. “This is like doing Cat’s Cradle across a massive city space that was divided when the highway was here.”
The 365 foot tall twine pattern spans 600 feet at its longest length and required the use of six cranes to lift the fasteners in place. The process for installing the suspended sculpture began in 2013 with designs, proposals and fundraising along with extensive research from structural engineers. Fluid and delicate in appearance, the sculpture puts thousands of pounds of pressure on the exterior of the International Plaza, 125 High Street and the Intercontinental Hotel.
“I want people to be able to have a relationship with this piece on a sunny day, a cloudy, rainy day at any time of day,” Eshelman said.
Shawmut Construction Senior Project Manager Micah O’Neal echoed Echelman appraisal on how position changes perspective.
“No matter where you’re standing, the sculpture looks different,” O’Neal said. “If you’re across the street or down the block, the shape and the contours are completely different. The perspective changes with where you’re standing and that is part of what makes it so special. It looked different when it was being put up in the morning, wherever the sun plus the LED lights at night, no two vantage points will show the same thing.”
The sculpture is completed with 32 individually programmed LEDs to light up the night sky.
O’Neal praised Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on his commitment to the arts in town. Given Janet’s reputation and Mayor Walsh’s enthusiasm for the arts, it’s clear that this is a priority in motion,” O’Neal said. “When you think about how many people are going to see this when they drive by, we aren’t talking about a sculpture that’s tucked away in a corner or in the lobby of some building. This is for all to see. This could help transform the way Boston as an arts city is viewed elsewhere in the country.”
Jesse Brackenbury, the Executive Director of the Rose Kennedy Greenway, spoke on the importance of working on their ongoing strategy of focusing on temporary exhibitions of contemporary art from local artists.
“Boston has a wonderful history of sculpture display and public art, our mission was to focus on contemporary art instead of art from the passed.” Brackenbury praised Echelmen’s proposal to sew the divided expressway back together. The rainbow colored net will float over the Greenway throughout the duration of the warm months until October brings the return of winter.