Wind Pile

Submitted by Greg Leshe

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Client: Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs

Location: Newark, NJ, United States

Completion date: 2018

Artwork budget: $3,500

Project Team

Client

Dennis Percher

South Mountain Conservancy

Client

Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. Essex County Executive

Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs

Art Consultant

Tricia Zimic - Curator

Wildflower Sculpture Park

Overview

“Wind Pile” is an outdoor public work constructed as a site-specific installation at the Wildflower Sculpture park within the South Mountain Reservation in Essex County, NJ. It is an artwork intended to formalize and hyper-visualize Wind, a non-visual force as a phenomenological encounter and experience. Wind Pile consists of 40 cubic yards of topsoil depicting an archetypal mound form, on which are planted natural grasses and indigenous flora. The pile is adorned with seventeen aeronautical windsocks constructed of free spinning, powder coated steel armatures covered in safety orange nylon fabric mounted on steel poles set into cement footings.

Goals

"Wind Pile" was a public art proposal submitted to an annual curated exhibition at the Wildflower Sculpture Park in Essex County, NJ. Four artists were chosen to display or construct new work in a section of the park dedicated to showcasing art-forms that highlight or explore themes of nature and conservation. The sculpture park is managed by the South Mountain Conservancy, a non profit organization comprised of volunteers and nature enthusiasts, who maintain the grounds, and conduct ongoing programs at the much needed intersection of art, culture and nature conservation. Carved from the wilderness at the end of the 19th century, South Mountain Reservation represents one of the last rustic design projects by Frederick Law Olmsted. The Wildflower Sculpture Park was founded in 2012 and is dedicated to providing emerging and established artists with opportunities to create and display large-scale sculptures in a beautiful and unique outdoor environment. Wind Pile was designed to be a natural soil mound covered in flora that expressed visual change over four seasons, and in combination with the animated, kinetic energies of the windsocks was intended to engender greater awareness about a specific local environment, including its wind and climate.

Process

Upon notification of the work's acceptance I began consulting with engineers and landscape experts to determine the amount of soil needed to create an earthen pile 10 feet high x 20 feet in diameter, while also calculating the percentage that the form would settle over the course of one year. I coordinated with the Essex County department of public works to have the soil trucked in, as well as roughly shaped by a front-loader machine. I further refined the pile's shape with my own manual labor and basic landscape tools. I worked with the curator as well as the park's conservancy to research and source natural flora that would be compatible with and non-invasive to the park's ecology. For the windsocks I worked with Huffy's Windsocks, and used their custom made steel armatures and nylon fabric forms, all fabricated at their family farm in Spencer, Nebraska. I cast a series of concrete footings that the steel poles mounted into, which gave greater stability to the work over the course of the year. Finally, I cut and threaded all of the steel pipe on site as each windsock and pole combination necessitated a specific height as the work was being installed.

Additional Information

Wind Pile channels an evolving concern with natural and cultural systems and how, due to climate change, they are in greater flux, tension and disharmony. Through this artwork, I am interested in opening a conversation about natural systems; extending consciousness about air, wind and atmosphere by making a non-visual force more tangible and optically present, through an animated massing; a phenomenon, a Wind Pile.