Client: The Venue Group
Location: Huntsville, AL, United States
Completion date: 2022
Artwork budget: $90,000
Designer, Lead Artist & Fabricator
Alchemy Arts Collective
Wood Crew Lead/Wood & Metal Artist
Metal Lead/ Metal Artist
Miki Masahura Page
Metal Artist/Installation Lead
Installation & Paint Crew
Metal & Paint Crew
Built by mostly femme and non-binary artists, Earth Bather celebrates black joy, self-love, and nurturance of the body. At 16′ tall, and a total of 55′ from toes to tips of hair, she commands a massive footprint at Apollo Park in Huntsville, Alabama. The park is an extension of The Orion Amphitheater, a new outdoor music venue that accommodates audiences of 8000. Earth Bather is fabricated from steel and redwood. Her deep toned rustic reclaimed redwood skin shows rich grain that changes appearance with the weather. Her hair is made of 82 individual steel strands, powder coated in metallic purple black, evoking the sheen of vinyl records. Inspired by the prolific musical history of the region, with Muscle Shoals just down the road, Earth Bather is modeled after friend and singer Tonya Abernathy, who chooses to offer her musical genius as a ‘backup’ vocalist. We wanted to tribute all the musicians whose talents are so essential to the sounds and songs we love, yet who are often less spotlighted than lead vocalists & instrumentalists.
Orion Amphitheater is hugged on one side by sweet gum trees. The goal was to create sculptural beings who seemed to be rising out of these woodlands, inviting visitors to interact with the forest and venture into a state of wonder.
In our fabrication process, we set out to significantly transform our approach to big-art making, while making an extraordinarily technically challenging piece. As a new mother, starting these designs with a 4 month old daughter, I knew I had to approach the intense labors of fabrication differently than ever before. During fabrication, we centered full crew self-care, unlimited schedule flexibility, lots of communication, and identifying/transforming oppressive work norms that any of us carried or perpetuated. We all experienced a lot of healing as we met the inevitable challenges and rewards of this kind of work.
Every large scale sculpture has to have a certain gravity and power in vision to hold a crew together, and Earth Bather had a really special hold on us all. I felt the devotion level in the crew as high as I ever have, and I love that about her. When I look at her I see the healing, tears, laughter, and good work of the many women and people who made her.
I modeled Earth Bather from scratch, lines and polygons using vertex tools, in Sketchup. The exoskeleton is made of hundreds of steel polygons arranged at precise angles. For the exterior we sourced reclaimed redwood from a barn in northern California, and fit them to Earth Bather's many contours.