Artist Janet Echelman shares the story of how she came to create sculptures with fishnets. After a shipping mishap left her in India for an exhibition without her art supplies, Echelman was forced to adapt her art using her surroundings. She collaborated with local fisherman to create great billowing sculptures out of fishnets and was instantly entranced by the flexibility and scope of the medium. Echelman ended up traveling all over the world and creating net-sculptures for a myriad of cities and countries. She has continued to find news ways to improve and strengthen her sculptures, incorporating engineering and architecture in her practice.
Janet Echelman is a sculptor. Her work has been installed in Singapore, Sydney, Shanghai, Santiago, Beijing, Boston, New York, London and others. She is the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, Harvard Loeb Fellowship, Aspen Institute Henry Crown Fellowship, and Fulbright Sr. Lectureship, and the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award in Visual Arts.
1.Think of a time in which you have had to adapt to a change in plans. What did you learn about yourself? How did your adaptation turn out?
2. How does thinking 'on the fly' compare with carefully curated plans? Which typically yields better results?
3. How does Echelman's art challenge us to think about everyday objects?
Research another artist who has uses a non-traditional or unexpected medium. How does that artist's adaptability effect your perspective on their medium? How does it effect your understanding of art? Share your discoveries and perceptions with the class.
We have all been in a situation where Plan “A” doesn’t work, so we have to try Plan “B” or maybe Plans “C”, “G” “P” and “Z” before something finally works out. Sometimes, one of those later plans turns out to be better than the first idea, but you never would have considered it as an option before you being forced to adapt.
This transcript of Janet Echelman’s TED Talk shares a story about how she needed to use her imagination and creativity when she did not have access to paint she was expecting to use for an art exhibition in India. Instead of giving up, she took inspiration from a familiar, overlooked object and turned it into a new approach to creating sculptures. By seeing fishing nets differently, she not only adapted her art beyond traditional practices, but she also found new career opportunities, formed new relationships with artisans and people around the world, and strengthened her knowledge and curiosity.
As you read, think about at time when you repurposed a familiar object like Echelman did. How did it work out? What did the experience teach you? Would you do it again or try to adapt differently? Whether you are prepared to adapt or not, it is an important skill to use your imagination to come up with new plans to help you succeed. It may change your life, just like it did for Janet Echelman.
1.78 BORÅS, SWEDEN, 2021
Fiber, Buildings and Sky combined with Colored Lighting. Fibers are braided with nylon and UHMWPE (Ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene)
Dimensions of net: 100 ft. length x 45 ft. width x 20 ft. depth
DREAM CATCHER, WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA, 2017
Fiber, Buildings and Sky combined with Colored Lighting. Fibers are braided with UHMWPE (Ultra high molecular weight polyethylene) and PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene)
Dimensions of net: 85 ft. height x 103 ft. width x 40 ft. depth
Installation dimensions: 100 ft. height x 110 ft. width
Visit Janet Echelman's portfolio
The Lore Degenstein Gallery at SU presents work in four professional exhibitions and one student exhibition each year. All are free and open to the public.
Learn more about the Lore Degenstein Gallery
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Selinsgrove, PA 17870
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