Thursday, July 21, 2016

Just Passing Through: Installation Art with Found Materials

Weekend picnickers and partiers at Lake Merritt in Oakland often employ folding metal gazebos — the kind you see vendors using at farmers markets. When I saw this gazebo-gone-wrong lying abandoned on the lawn of the park a few doors down from my apartment building my first reaction was annoyance. Clearly someone couldn't figure out how to fold the damn thing back up again so they trashed it and left it behind.

Folding picnic gazebo gone wrong

Then, while sitting at a bus stop across the street from the metal wreck I thought, gee, that shape is really kind of interesting.

The lines are so intriguing it actually looks sculptural. So... I decided to embellish it just a bit to create an installation piece that was already 95% installed.

I had recently collected a bunch of feathers left on the ground around the lake from the annual Canada Geese molting season. I decided to use an old Ohlone technique for working with feathers. They used them to create skirts and capes. I used them to embellish the metal structure. The feathers and how-to regarding the Ohlone technique are shown below.

Feathers ready for hanging

Ohlone technique for creating a hanging loop on a feather

Finished loop with string tied on

The concept behind this installation is expressed in the title, "Just Passing Through," as explained in the signage below.

Sign printed on card stock, attached to metal limb of piece

Sign wording

The final step was to tie the Canada Geese feathers to the metal limbs of the piece, creating a kinetic sculpture.

Any day when you can turn an annoyance into art is a very good day indeed. And... the entire thing vanished a day later, presumably carted off by city workers or the Parks Department, turning the whole thing from an installation into a very short-lived performance piece. Do I mind? No. Like all the components involved, it was just passing through.


  1. Loved reading how you transformed what was otherwise trash/abandoned structure into something so beautiful and thoughtful!


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