Tailspin

Submitted by Becky Borlan

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Client: DC Department of General Services

Location: Washington, DC, United States

Completion date: 2017

Artwork budget: $50,000

Project Team

Artist

Becky Borlan

B+B LAB

Artist

Jesse Robinson

Robinson Forged Metals

Industry Resource

Sam Fisher

PointWright Rigging

Overview

Tailspin is a suspended sculpture that hangs in the two-story atrium of Marie Reed elementary school in Washington, DC. Twenty-one etched acrylic kites appear to fly in a midair vortex. The sculpture spans 24 ft. long, with a 6 ft. by 6 ft. spiral helix that gradually unfurls. Made from aluminum tube and ¼ inch cast acrylic, the sculpture is extremely lightweight, a requirement of the commission. The sculpture provides multiple viewing angles from two floors and anchors the large space, creating a sense of dynamic movement coupled with luminous color.

Goals

A percent for art project, Tailspin was installed at the Marie Reed complex during a 2 year renovation. Projects for the school needed to be fun, whimsical, and integrate into the historic architecture of the building. The sculpture responds both to its specific site and its larger place within DC. Marie Reed elementary is located in the heart of the Adams Morgan neighborhood with a view of the Washington Monument in the distance. The artist took inspiration from the yearly kite festival held on the grounds of the Monument to bring color and movement to the atrium space. Within the school, the sculpture hangs under a large skylight, illuminating the kites at different times of day. The presence of sky is echoed indoors by the bright cerulean accent tiles and creates a harmonious backdrop for the piece. The sculpture hangs perfectly within the frame of the second floor library’s curtain windows, making for an ideal view from the reading nook inside. Capturing the exuberance of a beloved childhood activity, Tailspin encourages Marie Reed students to embrace curiosity and play.

Process

The artist Becky Borlan worked closely with Jesse Robinson of Robinson Forged Metals, an artisan metalworker, to realize the complicated shape of a spiral helix. Individual 8 ft. sections of pipe were bent and then connected to create the total 24 ft. length. Robinson then crafted low profile attachment hardware for the acrylic kites. Also instrumental to the success of the sculpture was PointWright Rigging, who installed the piece. Working around an uneven floor in a 30ft tall space presented multiple challenges, but over the course of three days the team pulled together to install the sculpture to its best advantage.