Client: Arizona Mills Mall
Location: Tempe, AZ, United States
Completion date: 2006
Artwork budget: $50,000
Niki Glen Studios
Flora and Fauna of Arizona consists of five monumental stone pillars embedded with mosaics. It is installed at the main entryway of the Arizona Mills Mall in Tempe, Arizona.
Flora and Fauna of Arizona is inspired by the many layers of sedimentary rock that form the Grand Canyon. The five pillars of stacked stone have handmade clay mosaics winding through the middle sections like a serene river. The piece is populated with natural forms, from birds to cacti to fossilized trilobites, and viewers discover new details each time they return to the piece. This work intertwines themes of community, nature, and interconnectedness, creating a soothing counterpoint to the bustle of the shopping mall.
Size: Five columns, each measuring 11’x3’x11’. Consists of 300 sq ft mosaic tile and 2,200 sq ft rock and stone.
Materials: Handmade tiles of high-fire stoneware clay, river rock, flagstone, and ledge stone.
With this work, which enhances the entryway of Arizona Mills Mall, Glen and Helwig wanted to remind viewers to relax and appreciate nature in all its complexity. The artists hoped to reflect this natural beauty and diversity by inviting local community members to add their own unique touches to the work and contribute their own handmade ceramic shapes. By bringing these distinct voices of the community together to create pieces of a unified mosaic, the artists hoped to demonstrate the power of each individual to contribute something– however small– to a larger cause, just as each element of nature contributes to the beauty of the whole.
The piece took on a life of its own and grew as the collaborative process unfolded. After researching Arizona’s riparian areas, Niki Glen and Helen Helwig designed the piece, fabricated the ceramic mosaic tiles, and formulated special glazes that echo the colors of the desert landscape. Artists, students, seniors, and community members then created birds, animals, and stylized images relating to the Grand Canyon and Arizona ecosystems. During installation, the artists worked side-by-side with local masons, tilers, and other community volunteers to complete this monumental work.