We headed to the Scottsdale Waterfront at Marshall Way Bridge a couple of days ago, eager to catch Saskia Jordá in the act of art-making. We'd heard installation was well underway for her large-scale piece called Migration, which is one of several temporary art works featured in the four-day Canal Convergence event presented by Scottsdale Public Art. It started Thursday, February 26, and continues through Sunday, March 1.
We'd made plans to meet the artist at one of two bridges where most of the wooden birds comprising Migration were being installed. While walking towards the Marshall Way Bridge, we spotted a couple sitting with several cardboard boxes filled with the birds. Turns out they were Jordá's parents, who were lacing together pairs of flat wooden bird shapes to create the three-dimensional pieces on view during the event.
Farther along the path, we spotted local artist Daniel Funkhouser (who is collections and exhibitions assistant with Scottsdale Public Art) and Lindsey Darling working atop a scissor lift to suspend the birds using clear fishing line and hooks that attached to an overhead screen over the Marshall Way Bridge. Jordá stood nearby, sporting jeans, a black T-shirt with a penguin on the front, tennis shoes, and sunglasses. A pair of white scissors hung suspended from one of her belt loops. Scottsdale Public Art events manager Andrea Teurli was there as well, but minus the nifty scissor accessory.
This installation, one of several she's done for Scottsdale Public Art, includes about 300 birds -- some retaining their natural light wood color, and others made yellow or red using acrylic spray paint. "The color references some of the details in the silt-cast panels surrounding the Soleri Bridge and the yellow blooms of the desert springtime," she says.
About 100 to 125 are being suspended from the Marshall Way Bridge, and about 75 to 100 from the Soleri Bridge near the corner of East Camelback and North Scottsdale Roads. Look carefully when you near them and you'll notice they've got a particular flight pattern. Other birds are being set in grassy or gravel areas along the canal as if foraging for food.
Jordá recalls a large crane flying over the installation "to check out the new kids in town" soon after the first wooden birds went up, but the ducks we saw waddling through the grass last week didn't seem to mind the artful birds sharing their turf.
Jordá created her laser-cut birds in three sizes. Phoenix Custom Lasering did most of the laser cutting, but Jordá notes that students from the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture helped as well.
Two flat pieces laced together with shoelaces form the birds that appear to fly along the canal, migrating like the myriad of people who move in or out of Scottsdale and its surrounds during winter and summer seasons.
She's created another Migration installation, in which a different variety of wooden birds spirals up an empty silo preparing to journey from Wisconsin farmland to Sonoran desert. The birds are a vehicle for conveying the artist's fascination with human migration, a phenomenon that's touched several generations of her own family.
Jordá moved from Venezuela to Arizona with her parents in 1994, and spent her last two years of high school at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale. For the past several years, she's migrated between two Frank Lloyd Wright campuses -- one in Scottsdale, the other in Wisconsin. Until recently, her husband Victor Sidy served as dean of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. He's now an architect in private practice.
Jordá hopes Migration inspires folks to think not only about their own migration tales, and the journeys of other people, but also the factors influencing birds' migration patterns. Think climate change, construction, agriculture, and more. "Maybe my piece will raise questions about what we're doing to effect bird populations," she says.
But the installation is also meant to reflect "the ever-soaring creative spirit" of the Valley evident in Scottsdale's public art and the "sense of community" created through gatherings such as Canal Convergence. She hopes the installation "captures the spirit of play" and reminds visitors of "fleeting memories of childhood."
Jordá began prototyping her wooden birds late last year, hanging them outside to see how well they would fare in wind, rain and other outdoor conditions. We caught up with her on the second full day of installation, but she'd previously worked on the birds for about four days a week during a three-week period.
"I want people to walk away inspired or tickled," Jordá told us. She hopes her installation fosters an "awareness of seeing, and paying attention." She'd like folks who often walk through spaces with neck bent down and eyes glued to a screen to wonder about what they see along the canal and why it's there.
Canal Convergence creates a sense of community, according to Jordá. "People spend so much time in front of computers," she explains. "People are hungry for a sense of community." Interacting with other people and with art, she says, promotes social interaction and play.
Next week Jordá starts another Migration installation, which is going up on the Mesa Arts Center campus as part of Spark! Mesa's Festival of Creativity taking place Wednesday, March 19 through Sunday, March 23. Her fiber works for the "Home Bound" exhibition at Art Intersection are up through Saturday, February 28.
Next up for the artist is a piece called 100% Contained, which she describes as "a poetic gesture." It's an organic line she'll create by joining the works of many people knitting or crocheting with a total of 37.89 miles of black yarn the signifies the perimeter of the 2012 Gladiator fire that affected the Prescott National Forest and the town of Crown King. It's part of the "Fires of Change" exhibit planned for September at the Coconino Center for the Arts in Flagstaff.
Before leaving Jordá to her installation work, we spent a bit of time talking with both mother and daughter. "They were always taking me to museums," Jordá says of her parents Veronica and Luis Jordá. Her mom recalls one particular visit to a museum in Spain, made when Jordá was about 10 years old. While her parents were reading signage for an exhibition of Pablo Picasso works, Jordá was explaining in great detail what she saw.
As a child, she'd often draw with colored pencils, and play with educational toys that had a hands-on, maker component. Like-minded folk can enjoy a color-your-own bird activity during Canal Convergence. Look for the activity table on the right side of the canal slightly east of Olive & Ivy, says Jorda. The activity runs from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.
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You can meet Jordá during a Meet the Artists Happy Hour taking place from 5 to p.m. at the Soleri Plaza Beer and Wine Garden. Let's hope her crane friend doesn't crash the party.
Find more information on the Scottsdale Public Art website.