To contribute to this project, visit http://kck.st/PrZDHh, or visit www.kickstarter.com and search under “beehive disco balls.” This campaign ends Wednesday at midnight.
By Cliff Bellamy
DURHAM – Wendy Kowalski is best known for her brightly colored paintings using sfumato, an Italian technique in which colors blend into each other without boundaries. Next April, Kowalski plans to unveil her first large metal sculptures and her first public art project in an event at Motorco Music Hall.
Kowalski is planning to build six beehive disco balls, each six feet tall, which will have hexagons made from aluminum from Vega Metals in Durham, titled “Pollen Path Beehive Disco Balls.” These hexagons will be fastened to a frame made of recycled metal, and a light will glow from the inside of each sculpture. To build these sculptures, Kowalski is seeking to raise $5,000 through the Kickstarter fundraising site. (As of this writing, she was approaching the halfway point. The campaign expires at midnight Wednesday.)
The sculptures draw on several influences, Kowalski said – her love of dance and movement, her love of music, her interest in the thought and work of R. Buckminster Fuller, and her concern about the plight of honeybees and the natural world. In her video for Kickstarter, Kowalski recalls how she became interested in Fuller, who invented the geodesic dome, after participating in Burning Man, an annual art-urban planning event in Nevada, in 2010. She has used the hexagon in her paintings, and the hexagons that are central to the sculpture take their inspiration from Fuller’s dome invention, she said. “There was something [Fuller] was saying about the future, about living in these domes, rather than separate houses,” Kowalski said.
A member of the Greensboro-based band Holy Ghost Tent Revival introduced her to the plight of honey bees, whose numbers have declined in recent years, and Kowalski realized that she had painted the honeycomb shape, which also is hexagonal, in several of her paintings. The symbol hints at the idea of connectedness, which Kowalski said is central to this sculpture.
“There’s a reason we’re drawn to artwork, some magical place we go. I would hope that the disco balls would transport people to that place,” she said. She invites visitors to come to Motorco and dance under the disco balls next year.
Many of her paintings feature circus performers, and on her website beecombfreedom.com she has videos of puppetry, stilt dancing, and other types of movement. Above all, music is central to these sculptures and all her art. “I love music and can’t paint without it,” she said in an email message. She also mentions dubstep, electronic music, and trance, all of which will be elements in the Motorco event.
Kowalski plans to make the sculptures at her studio in Wilmington, where she has been living for about seven years. She has numerous ties to the Durham area, having participated in several ArtWalks and at the Shakori Hills festival. She has produced a mock-up of the first sculpture at Vega Metals, where sculptor Renee Leverty helped her, and she has worked at the MonkeyBottom Collaborative metal sculpture studio.
Leverty said she helped Kowalski hammer the aluminum into hexagon shapes “in order to create better reflection and movement.” She also advised her about the best way of connecting metal to create that sense of movement. Leverty stressed that her role is strictly advisory, that she’s offering Kowalski help if she needs it.
“It’s going to be a lot of work,” Kowalski said, and she wants “to take the time to learn how to fabricate them correctly.”
She wants the disco ball project to be a traveling exhibit, with Durham being the place for the unveiling. She envisions the Motorco opening to be an all-day event, what Kowalski calls “a day of illumination,” with seminars on beekeeping, along with music, dance and other activities. Eventually, she said she would like the disco balls to be displayed in Durham Central Park, or other places downtown.
Kowalski has created some smaller metal sculptures in the past two years. “I really felt compelled to make them,” she said of those projects. The beehive disco balls will be her first large-scale sculpture and her first public art.
She wants viewers of this work to experience “a sense of wonder, wonder about the natural world as well as their internal world … that happy realm I’m always trying to find in my paintings.”