Aerial art exhibit opens at Tower Hill

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Aerial art exhibit opens at Tower Hill
Artist Patrick Shearn sits in front of a portion of his installation “Flora in Flight” at New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill. (Photo/ Laura Hayes)

BOYLSTON – Above the path to Pliny’s Fountain at New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill lies a network of thin strips of fabric. The pieces hang down in shades of pink, purple and blue and whisper in the wind.

It’s part of an aerial art exhibition at the garden called “Flora in Flight.”

This section of the exhibit is called the “Fountain of Reflection,” and the pieces of fabric spiral down to meet the water bubbling from the fountain.

“Flora in Flight” is the latest in Patrick Shearn’s Skynet Art Series.

“This one, I’ve got to say, is right up there with my favorites. I just love the way the color react to the green and the lush,” he said.

The installation officially opened on June 22, and it can be found in three separate locations in the garden.

Shearn is the founder and creative director of Poetic Kinetics, which is a creative arts and design studio based in Colorado Springs. He was originally inspired by the murmuration of starlings in the sky.

“You look up, and there’s a million birds, and they’re flying in big swarms. It feels like birds should be raining out of the sky, but they’re not,” Shearn said.

When he sees the flocks of birds or schools of fish, Shearn said that something opens inside of himself.

“I become aware of something bigger than myself; something attainable and understandable, but like magic,” he said. “I was looking for a way to create that same sensation in the viewer.”

Aerial art exhibit opens at Tower Hill
Artist Patrick Shearn sits in front of a portion of his installation “Flora in Flight” at New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill. (Photo/ Laura Hayes)

The artwork is made out of ultralight kite fabric. “Fountain of Reflection,” for example, is made up of 7,896 pieces of fabric, 15,792 staples, 2,175 feet of rope and 79 knots, spanning over 1,300 total square feet.

However, the real design is how the artwork is rigged to maximize the movement of wind. According to Shearn, they have a 3D computer-generated process that involves mapping out the environment and measuring trees. From there, they create a shape that will work in the space. Shearn then gets a 2D perimeter of the installation into which he can paint with every pixel representing a piece of fabric.

Shearn said the garden is the “perfect environment” to display art. His team brought in arborists and worked with the horticulturists at Tower Hill to make sure that the trees could support the artwork.

“We really care about integrating the art into the existing situation and the agenda of gardens — they’re all about conservation and education,” Shearn said.

He added, “I just feel a real strong connection to the mission here, and they’re doing such a good job at the New England Botanic Garden.”

Visitors will be able to experience the exhibition with the cost of general admission. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the garden offers later hours, allowing visitors to view it by twilight. For more information, visit https://nebg.org/.

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