Sound Sculptures Hit High Note at Hand Art Center

"Harmonitree" sculpture

Air-filled, tuneful-tree sculptures come to life, Oct. 17-23, during the virtual “Harmonitrees” exhibit at the Homer and Dolly Hand Art Center.

The “Harmonitrees” exhibit includes eight sonic, kinetic and inflatable sculptures, featuring harmonious harmonicas producing musical sounds, created by composer, installation artist and oboist Sky Macklay, DMA.

The display will include eight sonic, kinetic and inflatable sculptures, featuring harmonious harmonicas producing musical sounds, created by composer, installation artist and oboist Sky Macklay, DMA.

“The ‘Harmonitrees’ exhibit is unique and innovative because of the inclusion of motion into a three-dimensional sculpture and the incorporation of the viewer and their role in the sculpture’s performance,” said James Pearson, MA, director of the Hand Art Center.

Macklay is also a visiting artist and composer who is participating in a one-week residency thanks to Stetson University’s Department of Creative Arts, the Artists and Lecturers Series and Anne West Hall Visiting Artists Fund.

Macklay has written compositions that have been performed by ICE, the Splinter Reeds and Wet Ink Ensemble, an eclectic musical troupe that performed at Stetson University’s Second Stage Theatre, in the Museum of Art – DeLand, in April 2019. The performance included the world-premiere of the “Moving (1)” composition by Chaz Underriner, PhD, assistant professor of digital arts at Stetson.

Chaz Underriner, PhD

Underriner met Macklay during the Gaudeamus Muziekweek in The Netherlands three years ago. The composers were nominated for the Gaudeamus International Composers Award. Underriner received grants to fund Macklay’s residency because he felt her expertise and installation art would be invaluable to Stetson’s faculty and students, and the community.

“Sky Macklay is an excellent composer and interdisciplinary artist who creates whimsical and interesting work,” said Underriner. “Her exhibit also will provide virtual viewers with a fun installation that combines bright, musical sounds with inflatable sculptures. The installation is a breath of fresh air that I think we can all use right now.”

The “Harmonitrees” exhibit will include one sculpture in the foyer and seven sculptures in the gallery. The tree height is between five and 10 feet tall to showcase a visual variety and develop a sonic envelope, or the amount of time it takes for the sound to fully begin.

Sky Macklay, DMA
Photo by Ramez Yousef 

“I hope my installation creates a joyful experience for everyone,” said Macklay. “It is tempting to be nihilistic during a global pandemic, so I want to counter that by making people smile, and perhaps inspire them to think more broadly about sound, music and art along with being more creative in their own lives.”

Each sculpture, which takes Macklay at least three days to construct, includes transparent plastic and 8-12 coverless, mouth organs, so virtual viewers can observe how the sound and vibrations are created. Other materials include zip ties, wire, a high-powered fan in a wooden box, foot-button with power chords and smart plug.

The air escapes through deconstructed harmonicas that are strategically affixed to the plastic at the air-escape points. When the fan is turned on, it fills the structure with air and creates pressure that pushes air through the harmonicas and vibrates the harmonica tines to create a drone sound.

The “Harmonitrees” exhibit also will include seven beach ball-shaped inflatables filled with air by Stetson’s Sculpture II students.

Viewers can learn more about Macklay and her display during a free, livestreamed artist talk via Zoom on Tuesday, Oct. 20, 7-8:30 p.m. The discussion will be moderated by Underriner.

An improvised, recorded concert, featuring the inflatable sculptures, Macklay playing the oboe, Underriner on the electric guitar and other instruments performed by Stetson’s School of Music faculty and students, can be viewed on the Hard Art Center’s website at a later date.

-Sandra Carr