Client: Sprint Flatiron Prow Art Space
Location: New York, NY, United States
Completion date: 2017
Artwork budget: $10,000
Cheryl McGinnis Gallery
Sarah Haviland Studio
The illuminated sculpture installation “Rise Above” presents five suspended winged figures in wire mesh, sited in the triangular window space of the historic Flatiron Building in New York City. The Flatiron Prow Art Space is viewable by the public at all hours from the crossroads of Fifth Avenue and Broadway at 23rd Street. The space is viewed by over 500,000 people a week. The appearance of “Rise Above” changes constantly from different views, responding to reflections, weather, traffic, and daytime or nighttime viewing; it is especially vivid after dusk. Installed January-March 2017, steel and galvanized wire mesh, installation 10’x11’x6’.
This dramatic, site-specific exhibit utilizes the unique architecture of the Flatiron Building. The triangular prow of the Flatiron is visible on three sides to the public from the exterior. The window installation must hold its own from all angles amidst the ever-turning world of New York City, catching the eye of regular passersby as well as one-time visitors. Special events are held inside for a small audience.
"Rise Above" presents a series of shimmering “drawings in space” using common hardware store materials. Transforming steel and galvanized wire mesh into an ethereal vision, the artist explores human-bird personae suggesting winged figures related to the soul. Inspired by stories and images from many world cultures, these beings acknowledge dualities: strength & subtlety, movement & stability, ancient & contemporary, earth & sky.
The mystery of luminous bird-figures in flight formation beckons the viewer from blocks away and begs to be looked at closely for the intricate structure and detail of the mesh. Lit from below, they seem to fly through Manhattan while being tethered to the space. The popular public response to the installation is evident in posted photos and comments on social media as well as Cheddar TV.
The artwork was commissioned by the Sorgente Group, in coordination with Sprint and Cheddar TV, which broadcasts a midday program from this prime spot inside the Flatiron Building at the center of Manhattan.
The artist worked with curator Cheryl McGinnis to design the installation precisely for the space and test the 24-hour lighting plan. The installation was an efficient, responsive process in the public eye, hanging the individual forms on monofilament lines with carabiner clips and then up-lighting them, after first working out the arrangement in a simulated space.
With tinsnips and pliers, the artist used techniques borrowed from sewing, metalwork, and paper craft, turning tough construction-grade materials into delicate, volumetric figures suspended in space and light. The creative process followed five steps in development: image research, sketching gestures and details, bending forms by hand with minimal welding assistance, cutting out mesh “patterns,” and wiring onto linear frames. The artist comments: I aim for concentrated images in surprising materials that address personal, social, and environmental concerns.
Cheryl McGinnis states: “As the curator of the Flatiron Prow Art Space, I try to find the work and artist that will be the perfect fit for the space and my curatorial platform. I just love this exhibit and having the opportunity to work with Sarah Haviland." Cheryl McGinnis Projects has been curating the commercial Flatiron Prow Art Space for 6 years, with the idea that using the space for art would benefit everyone in the community—both local and global. The exhibits have been instrumental in creating a conversation about art with a broader audience—making art accessible to all.