Thursday, June 6, 2013

Meet 'Cloud City' at the Green Box Arts Festival

Posted By on Thu, Jun 6, 2013 at 5:43 PM

Today, the Indy took a tour of the under-construction "Cloud City" installation going up in Green Mountain Falls as part of the Green Box Arts Festival.

Launched in 2009, Green Box has brought world-class art and performances to Green Mountain Falls every summer except last, when it was cancelled at the last minute due to the Waldo Canyon Fire.

Regardless, this may be the biggest year yet, as "Cloud City" finally arrives after spending last May through November on the rooftop garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was a site-specific piece created by Argentinian artist Tomás Seraceno with the help of architect and engineer Graham Stewart, who is now overseeing the reconstruction of "Cloud City" in GMF.

Cloud City, Green Box Arts Festival
  • Edie Adelstein
  • "Cloud City" from the main road, under construction today.

Taking two weeks to assemble, "Cloud City" should be finished by Sunday if all goes according to plan. The enormous construct, 36 feet high and 20 tons heavy, overlooks GMF's lake from a southwestern hilltop across from Lake Street. Pieced together exactly how it was in New York, it somewhat resembles a McDonald's play area, with 16 metallic, geometric modules bubbling organically into the air.

That effortless appearance, of course, comes at a cost. Stewart and his team spent four days loading the work onto eight flatbed trucks, and caravaning them, complete with police escort, out of New Jersey and all the way to Colorado. Some pieces, like some of the plexiglass, broke in transit, so Stewart was procuring replacements when the tour began. But while the work may seem flimsy, Stewart guarantees its might, pointing out that it's made from fiberglass, stainless steel, miles of cable and the same bolts used for house foundations.

"This was one of the most difficult pieces I've done," he says, and he'd know: His work is transporting and building sculptures, paintings and grand installations like this. His three businesses send him the world over.

He says the hardest work he ever did was installing Damien Hirst's shark sculpture, "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" in the Met. Yeah, that one: a 13-foot shark suspended in a vat of formaldehyde in a glass tank. Stewart and team had to X-ray the Met floor and build extra support to hold the world-famous piece.

Back at "Cloud City," once completed, visitors will enter and exit the piece on a ground level and climb stairs up to the pods, which have transparent and reflective walls to catch and display slices of the landscape. That view began with the green of Central Park and the NYC skyline. Now it shows mountains and evergreens, but both catch a bright blue sky.

Cloud City, Green Box Arts Festival
  • Edie Adelstein
  • Half a million people visited "Cloud City" at the Met last year.

There are limitations as to who can enter the work — pregnant women and clausterphobics, for instance, probably shouldn't — but the Green Box website will offer a virtual tour online. And unlike the Met incarnation, everyone can see the piece for free.

"Cloud City" won't stay up for long. It enjoyed six months at the Met, but will only have a few weeks in GMF. After that, the Green Box crew isn't sure where it will go next. (It belongs to the Christian Keesee Charitable Trust. Keesee, of course, is the man behind Green Box.)

Cloud City, Green Box Arts Festival
  • Edie Adelstein
  • A crew of about 50 helped bring "Cloud City" to life, and then later transport it here.

If a visit or two doesn't suffice, you can volunteer as a docent for the few weeks the piece is up. Green Box is partnering with the Business of Art Center to find "cloud catchers" to time the visits and organize visitors. (11 people can go inside the piece at one time.)

Green Box and "Cloud City" open June 23, with the festival running through July 3. The exhibit alone will stay up through July 13, open from 1 to 7 p.m. Click here for a calendar of events, which include workshops, concerts from the Haunted Windchimes and Kyle Dillingham, a performance by New York City's Keigwin + Company dance group, and an online presentation from author and New York Times writer Blake Bailey.

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