After months of debate about the passionflower sculptures in Coral Gables, residents had a chance Friday to hear from the artist who designed the pieces, Alice Aycock.
The world-renowned artist, know for her large and complex sculptures, discussed her influences and the work that went into the pieces during an artist’s talk at the Coral Gables Museum on Friday. The talk came in the midst of the museum’s exhibit showing how the pieces were made that will run through Dec. 6.
Aycock walked through past inspirations like her interests in space, technology and finding connections between everyday structures and abstract concepts like illustrations of mathematical figures and science. She said the sculptures were also a showcase of her love of flowers and gardening — particularly her love of the passionflower.
“The piece speaks not only to nature now but to something about the future or something about the ideas that we are all dealing with today in terms of medicine, biology, agriculture, all sorts of things,” Aycock said.
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Missing from the talk was discussion about the criticism the piece has received from a group of residents that want the pieces, at the traffic circles on Segovia Street at Biltmore Way and Coral Way, removed and relocated. Aycock said that her goal in creating any art is to prompt a broader conversation.
“I want you to think not just about the enclosed universe of the museum or of art but of the world,” Aycock said. “That’s why I make art, I make art to put something out there that wasn’t there before as a kind of gift.”
Aycock has been a speaker and had work featured during Art Basel Miami Beach and has art featured in Broward County as well as the San Francisco Public Library, Dulles International Airport in suburban Washington and John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.
The backlash against the artworks, two flower-like metal and aluminum sculptures, began in earnest this summer after they were installed. Residents began circulating an unofficial petition and sending hundreds of emails to city leaders expressing shock or displeasure with the sculptures.
Those residents are now circulating an official petition that voters might see, through a referendum, on the April 2017 ballot if the opposing group gains more than 6,000 signatures. So far they’ve received a little more than 1,400 signatures.
Many of the critics said they had issues with the look and size of the sculptures and said they didn’t fit the city’s Mediterranean style. Many also criticized what they felt was a lack of public input or notice about the pieces.
The sculptures also have plenty of supporters, including some people at Friday’s talk like Jackie Pineda, who said she loves the pieces and think they represent the beauty of nature.
“If I’m driving by them, and I’m not in the best mood, they lift my spirits,” Pineda said.