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The holiday season is here! And while many of us cannot travel this year, SEGD has decided to bring travel-themed stories to members, just in time for the holidays. This story by contributor Franck Mercurio features artist Sarah Sze’s stunning new installation inside LaGuardia’s Terminal B and the SEGD members of DE Powder Coated Graphics who helped make this showpiece a reality. Enjoy!
Before 2020, New York’s LaGuardia Airport was never considered a place where people might want to linger and muse over public art. New York’s “second airport” had a reputation as a frantic (and somewhat shabby) transportation hub where travelers just wanted to get in and get out as quickly as possible! But that changed this past June with the opening of Terminal B. The architecture and engineering firm HOK designed this sleek new gateway to New York City and incorporated spaces to accommodate four permanent works of public art:
· Jeppe Hein’s All Your Wishes
· Sabine Hornig’s La Guardia Vistas
· Laura Owens’ I [pizza] New York
· Sarah Sze’s Shorter Than the Day
All four were commissioned by LaGuardia Gateway Partners, the operators of the airport, and curated by New York’s Public Art Fund. Of the four works, Sze’s stands out for its scale and its ethereal appearance—despite being constructed of five tons of aluminum and steel! The Public Art Fund describes Shorter Than the Day this way:
The monumental sculpture by artist Sarah Sze evokes the passage of time through an intricate constellation of photographs. Hundreds of images form a mirage-like sphere that appears to float in midair. Each photograph captures a snapshot of the sky above New York City taken over the course of one day.
Sze’s sculpture is highly visible inside Terminal B’s Departures Level. There, it is suspended from the ceiling above an opening in the floor overlooking the Baggage Claim area. The artist borrowed the title of the piece from an Emily Dickinson poem, a meditation on the passage of time, appropriate for a transportation hub where departures and arrivals run according to timetables.
And the imagery incorporated into the piece—of clouds and sun, photographed over the course of a day—also serves as a metaphor for the passage of time. SEGD member firm DE Powder Coated Graphics (of Saddle Brook, NJ) collaborated with the artist to embed 930 of Sze’s photographic images into small aluminum panels that were then attached to the sculpture’s steel framework.
The firm used a powder-coated process to embed the images within the aluminum; it’s a method typically used to fabricate outdoor signage (such as wayfinding panels), but increasingly used for contemporary art pieces (such as murals and installations). DE Powder Coated Graphics worked alongside installers from Amuneal Manufacturing (of Philadelphia, PA) and Sze herself to ensure that every panel aligned with the artist’s intent before it was attached to the installation. The completed work (again, weighing five tons!) was installed on-site in spring of 2020 during the height of the pandemic.
“It was a wonderful project to work on with a great team behind it,” said Kevin Cherashore of Direct Embed. “Amuneal is a top-notch company, and there is nothing we love more than the collaborative process with a team of professionals that have a unified and common goal.”
Shorter Than the Day exemplifies how close collaboration—through planning, engineering and “intuitive tuning”—can produce a dynamic masterpiece within a public space. And after current travel restrictions are lifted, more people will be able to enjoy this amazing work as they pass through the new terminal.