Best Public Art - 2009
Her Secret Is Patience by Janet Echelman
No pun intended, but it's a wonder that Her Secret Is Patience, a massive sculptural installation by Boston artist Janet Echelman that now anchors downtown's new Civic Space Park, ever got built to begin with. Inspired by Arizona's monolithic monsoon clouds and the fleeting flowers of the state's iconic saguaro cactus, Echelman's ethereal creation of free-floating netting and steel, which changes with the wind and is kaleidoscopically uplighted at night, almost never got built — thanks to a city government faction that wanted to dump the project mid-stream. But public support and the commitment of the Phoenix City Council ultimately won out. The sculpture, which had been dissed as resembling everything from a jellyfish and collapsed sphincter to a thought balloon and cowpie, is now the eye-popping focal point of the city's newly opened downtown park across the street from ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. More impressive against a nighttime sky than its daytime backdrop, Her Secret Is Patience hypnotically draws people in like moths being sucked into a multi-colored, ever-changing flame.
The name of Echelman's massive sculpture is unforgivingly appropriate. It comes from a quote penned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 19th-century American Trancendentalist poet, philosopher, and essayist: "Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience." Emerson is the same guy who once wrote, "To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage." And courage is what it took to get Echelman's artwork up and butting against the sky.