Sculptures are historically made from marble or stone, or maybe wood or metal — part of their being is rooted in their feel of permanence. But environmental artists and their land art have long-challenged that idea. So has Fujiko Nakaya, who for 50 years has been pushing against the traditional idea of what makes a sculpture a sculpture.
Her latest work is featured in the parks of Boston, including Jamaica Pond Park, Bay Fens, Olmsted Park, Franklin Park and the Arnold Arboretum. All the parks were built by Frederick Law Olmsted (best known for designing New York City's Central Park) and are part of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy.
Called "Fog x FLO: Fujiko Nakaya on the Emerald Necklace," these sculptures are created from the Buddhist point of view, says the artist, who points out that the "solid and eternal" idea of sculpture is a western idea. "In the Buddhist thinking it's always that nature responds to you according to its rules," Nakaya told Smithsonian magazine.
The FLO in the exhibit's title stands for Olmsted's initials, as the fog sculptures encourage visitors to visit the parks and to see the famous landscape designer's aesthetic in a new way.
Yes, this is a large and complex set of sculptures. According to WBUR, "[Nakaya] partnered with engineer Thomas Mee to design the tiny, stainless steel nozzles that disperse pure droplets of water, 17-microns in size. The nozzles are connected to five, black water lines suspended above our heads." The nozzles release water vapor on a schedule set by the artist and "rhythmically appear and dissipate in shifting air and natural light," according to a release.
Like the weather, the sculptures are constantly shifting, reminding the park wanderer of Dickens' lines in Bleak House: "Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls...."
Because they move and change throughout the day, the sculptures both celebrate the park landscape design and also fully depend on and interact with local climatic conditions, which is why it's been called "climate responsive" art.
Nakaya has worked to create fog sculptures throughout her five-decade career and has created more than 80 of them — in 16 countries — during that time. But this is the first time sculptures in multiple areas will be presented at the same time.
"[Nakaya]’s been doing something that has been consistent, it has been timeless, and right now it is timely in terms of climate responsive art," Boston-based curator Jen Mergel told WBUR.
The fog sculpture at The Fens in Boston. (Photo: Melissa Ostrow/Emerald Necklace Conservancy)
The "Fog X FLO" exhibition is running in Boston's parks through Oct. 31, 2018 and is free and open to the public.