SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – When visitors to the new MGM Springfield casino soon enter its hotel lobby, they will be greeted by a large, state-of-the-art sculpture that wraps around the interior of the building’s entrance.
The piece, the work of New York artist Mia Pearlman, is an homage to the perseverance, resilience and triumph of the region in the aftermath of the tornado that tore through the city in 2011.
Pearlman named her sculpture “The Flying Tidings Whirled,” after a line from an Emily Dickinson poem about a summer storm.
Crafted from 10 large aluminum pieces that have been powder-coated white, the piece is meant to express a dramatic weather pattern that Pearlman hopes will “draw you into the space” from the street outside.
“When MGM approached me about doing a commission in this space, they were very interested about doing something on the tornado that happened in Springfield,” Pearlman said during an interview Thursday.
The idea of making a sculpture about how the city had triumphed over the force of nature was appealing, she said.
“You don’t want to make light of it, because it’s a very serious thing,” Pearlman said, talking about how she wanted to create a work that embodied the “energy and the drama” of the storm while also not making it an uncomfortable experience for visitors.
Pearlman said she hoped visitors would see it as a kind of “wild thing” that will draw them into the building and inspire their curiosity, making them “poke around and see what it is.”
Using the storm as a subject for Pearlman’s art is also in keeping with MGM’s overall design strategy for the casino, which has used regionally specific cultural and historical events and figures to celebrate the Pioneer Valley and bring the buildings’ interiors to life.
Pearlman began her artistic career shortly after receiving a bachelor’s of fine arts degree from Cornell University in 1996. She went on to create art that has been exhibited in galleries throughout the world, including the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City and the Manchester Art Gallery in England.
Her work has also appeared in numerous contemporary art books, and in the New York Times and Boston Globe.
Pearlman said that throughout her career, she has drawn inspiration from a number of sources, including Italian baroque artists, Japanese screen painting and, appropriately, organic forces of nature like storms and extreme weather.
Certain female sculptors have also had a real impact on her work, Pearlman said. Artists like Lygia Clark, Sheilda Hicks, and Alice Aycock have been influential. “Artists who made really crazy, over-the-top forms were always inspiring,” she said.
The production of the installation was created through a complex process. Pearlman started the MGM project by making a scale model out of paper, then scanned the model into a computer so that it could be analyzed for further production.
Pearlman said she often starts projects by making shapes with contorted paper that she described as being more driven by intuition than anything else. “They’re very spontaneous and intuitive,” she said. “I don’t make a model or sketches ahead of time.”
Those shapes are slowly transformed into a more finished, articulated form, she said.
For the MGM project, Pearlman collaborated with fabricator Polich Tallix, which has been responsible for many high-profile projects, including design for Academy Award statuettes. “They’re able to translate my paper models into these incredibly gigantic works out of steel and aluminum,” Pearlman said in a video produced about the piece.
Pearlman said she appreciates whatever interpretations visitors bring to her work.
“What’s really important for me as an artist is to make work for a universal artist,” she said. “If you’ve never been to a gallery or museum before or if you have a Ph.D. in art history, everybody has a valid and wonderful set of things to bring to seeing art and to take from it.”
“My favourite conversations are always with people who just were wandering by or who work in the space, and just to see what experiences they have over time or what it makes them think about,” she said.
More of Pearlman’s work can be viewed by visiting her website.
Information from: The Springfield (Mass.) Republican, http://www.masslive.com/news/