Today I’m writing a press release for the Surface Design Association’s upcoming June 6-9 In-ter-face Conference in San Antonio. Janet Echelman is our keynote speaker; her lecture title, “Taking Imagination Seriously.”
Janet, a 1987 Harvard graduate, started her art career as a painter. As she describes in her TED talk (below), she applied for and received a Fulbright to travel to India in 1987 and create paintings. The artist arrived, but her paints did not. As she watched fisherman weaving their nets along the beach, a new idea emerged, to create a three-dimensional woven structure that could move and float in the air. That initial project has evolved into designing massive floating sculptural installations for urban spaces around the world.
While I am awed at the scale and fluidity of these forms and impressed at how they animate and engage the steel and concrete environments and human populations that surround them, what impresses me most is Janet herself as a creative. As the TED talk reveals, Janet has candor, humor and a passion for creative process and the power of imagination that are contagious.
In this new year, as I challenge my own imagination to be bolder, more daring and confident, this artist is the first one I am choosing as a touchstone. The above image of Janet seems to encapsulate her energy and creative vision.
I am drawn to the communal nature of Echelman’s work. Rendering her ideas into form engages experts in engineering, science and even aeronautics in a collaborative process. When artistic vision mingles with science and physics, all contribute to a creative process that leads to awe-inspiring results.
Janet broached this same subject as a TED talk in 2011:
I am eager to hear Janet speak more fully on imagination at the Surface Design Association conference. This artist/imagineer, her history, ideas and experiences as a maker will be a fitting launch for a conference that always inspires and informs my own creative practice.
(For more, read this Huffington Post interview with Echelman.)