Another sky at Occidental Park

Artist Sophia Wheelwright has an ethereal quality about her, and it's enhanced when she's enveloped in a cloud of texture, pattern and light that is a cloud of her own creation.
18 July, 2017
What is especially compelling about Wheelwright's work is her use of aluminium mesh to create those clouds, which serve as objects that seamlessly integrate with their natural surroundings.
Wheelwright's 2016 exhibition in Seattle, Washington, serves as an example. The "Suspended Eddies" summer installation featured aluminium mesh webs that billowed and cascaded from the trees in Occidental Park. Measuring six meters by 18 meters, the installation appears as a cloud by day while changing form and color with the blues, greens and violet lighting at night.

Wheelwright has created similar projects for museums, outdoor festivals and industrial spaces. In Accreted Terrane, she participated with 41 other artists in a show that was designed to explore how things accumulate and then erode, how they are gathered and dispersed.
Image: MoNA
Paintings, archaeological artifacts, glass sculptures and other pieces served to tell the story of a natural world in the midst of profound change – a story that Wheelwright's own "Accreted Mesh" explores with a striking sense of motion at rest, interpreted through a sculpture made of 1,200 square feet of airy aluminium.

"I am interested in engaging people in not only seeing an object interact with a space but in having their own experience of space shift by entering a piece," the artist explains. "I hope to create opportunities to experience these moments through my sculpture and installations."

The aluminium mesh works outdoors, as it did in Seattle and previously at the "Glen & Now" festival, where Wheelwright used 2,400 square feet of aluminium mesh to create a ribbon weaving through the trees at ground level a full 30 meters long. Yet Wheelwright's work is often found suspended from the hallway ceilings and rooms of art studios or performance halls indoors, where the mesh creates a focal point to support the visual exhibit or enhance the theater experience during live performances.
Images: Facebook
Much of Wheelwright's work is attached to the Vernae project, a collaborative work of more than 50 artists living in five different countries. It is a multimedia experience based on The Rite of Spring led by artist Ethan Folk. The ongoing Vernae has led to six short film productions, seven live performance installations, and a gallery exhibition in Belgrade, and will end next year with a final experimental film.

"The performance installations in Belgrade and Seattle have sought to create deeply immersive environments, which, although they will certainly be experienced by an audience, are primarily designed for the benefit of the performers," the Vernae team explains.
Those immersive environments are enhanced by the aluminium mesh artwork that Wheelwright has specialized in. Her sculptures were integral elements for the live performances and film work in Seattle during the Vernae project, and express both her formal arts education and studies in the humanities.

What they also reflect his Wheelwright's gravitation toward materials that she describes as "quickly responsive" because they easily become 3D. It's why she chooses aluminium mesh – 30 meters at a time, she says – because she's curious what it's going to do. Each piece is worked by hand for months before she takes them into different environments, and it's her hope that the highly organic aluminium pieces, despite being metal, invite people into a space just as Wheelwright herself is pulled in as she works on their ever-changing presentation.
Banner image: Seattle Times