In the Summer of 2018, I had the most amazing opportunity to do some creative work on a large scale. And if you live in Austin I will bet that you’ve already seen it in person.
Local artist Laurie Frick emailed me to see if I would be willing to partner up with her on a City-commissioned work called “Tempo Refresh” — a revamping of the existing art on Lamar Blvd. near the flagship Whole Foods. Laurie came to my studio and laid out the vision.
Laurie wanted the work to reflect what visitors most enjoyed about Austin. She sifted through years of visitor survey data from the City. The painted walls of the installation would be a visual interpretation of data collected on why visitors come to Austin and what they do while they’re visiting the city. Instagram provided insight as well; there she found pictures of the 13 most Instagramed murals in Austin. She wanted to create upholstered artwork that would cover the existing blue reflective panels that stuck out from the walls of the underpass; these panels would each represent one of those 13 murals. Laurie used software to:
- select a limited number of colors from each picture and
- identified the percentage each color occured in the mural.
My job was to take these pictures and colors and find a way to represent them in 13 different 6’ x 2’ upholstered panels. When she gave me complete freedom to design each one, I was ecstatic. I might have jumped up and down while trying to hug her! And that’s not easy as she’s twice as tall as me!
The process: finding the essence of each mural in fabric
I started by sourcing outdoor fabrics in all of the colors I’d need. I ended up selecting 113 different fabrics. Finding matches didn’t seem possible at first, but it’s amazing what hours of internet searching will yield. Once I had the fabrics in hand, I began the long process of designing each panel to reflect a mural. My dining room table became filled with small samples of fabrics and drawings of what I wanted them to look like. It was creative Nirvana!
The process: structural design
Next my husband Christian and I sketched the frames that he would craft for me to cover. He ingeniously designed a way for my panels, once upholstered, to sandwich each of the existing reflective panels. His final touch was to embed solar-powered lights along the inside edge of the panels so that they would throw light against the underpass.
An inspiring installation
Months later, with 13 different designs and 26 different panels (one upholstered panel for each side of the existing panels) we brought our scaffolding downtown and started installing. I don’t get out much; my days are spent tinkering and creating in my home studio. I was struck by how many people traverse Lamar Boulevard. There was never a time when there weren’t cars stacked up waiting for the light. We were heartened by many encouraging and thankful comments about the project from people driving by.
Six more months of fame
At one and a half years later, I still find joy just thinking about the process. When I drive by and see how good they still look, I feel like I am living life as I should…making cool shit! I have just six months to go before we will take them down. I’m stumped as to what to do with 32 6’ x 2’ panels; where am I going to put them? I’m hoping a restaurant or grocery store wants them to brighten their walls. Got ideas? Be in touch! Otherwise I’m going to be paneling my bathroom, bedroom and dining room (and every other wall in my house) with them!