The Canvas of Sky and Walls: 2 Incredible Artists

God gives us the arts and sciences so that we can have a mere glimpse of how he thinks.  Paintings, sculpture, prose, poetry, melodies, the universe, healing – God calls us to manifest his qualities through these human expressions regardless of national, political and religious boundaries.

Two artists recently featured on give me a bit of that glimpse.  While both do beautiful work, I am most impressed by the persistence of their creativity DNA. The art they create today is not what they started off with earlier in their careers. Both used different media and both heeded inner urgings to journey beyond their familiar media.  Their obedience to these urges bring beauty and dignity to our world.

Their art is very different.  One creates airy sculptures in the sky. The other transforms building surfaces into human faces.


When my son was a baby, I used to watch him breathe as he slept.  I was content just to watch his chest move in cadence while his eyelids fluttered.  I felt I was watching life itself breathe.

Janet Echelman lets us watch the sky breathe with her billowing sculptures.  Her public sculptures are not static courtyard statues of famous people, but seemingly freeform rainbows yearning to glide across the sky. 

She originally used paint as her medium.  Many years ago, she was invited to Malaysia to paint, and on the day of her event, her paints had yet to arrive.  She took a walk along the beach and watched some fishers working on their nets.  The seed of her vision was planted.  Her materials have evolved from fishing nets to lace to a high-tech tensile support matrix of Spectra® fiber, a material 15 times stronger than steel by weight.

The above photograph is of “1.26,” her creation that floats between the Denver Art Museum and Greet Theater.  It was so named when she learned that the February 2010 Chile earthquake shortened the length of the earth’s day by 1.26 microseconds by slightly redistributing the earth’s mass.

This is “Her Secret is Patience” floating above the Downtown Civic Space Park in Phoenix, Arizona.  She was inspired, in part, by the forceful presence of weather, and its effects on coloring the region’s sky.  The title is from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.”

In her biography, she says, “I make living, breathing pieces that respond to the forces of nature — wind, light, water.”  I think she provides us a delightfully kaleidoscopic foreground when we view the heavens.  You can see more of her work at


I appreciate graffiti, though I realize that I am in the minority.  I don’t care for tagging simply to ward off competing gangs.  But I do know the need to say, “I exist!” to annoyed or apathetic passersby.  And while I have never done graffiti (I can’t even litter), I can understand the thrill of marking territory while the city sleeps, and the tingling satisfaction of getting away with breaking rules.

At 15, JR did graffiti to announce “I am here” on rooftops and walls to fellow Parisiennes.  At 17, he found a cheap camera in the subway.  He took pictures of his graffiti and gave them to his friends.  These photos of graffiti were pasted onto walls. 

He began using his camera to capture the heights and depths of the human soul.  These photos were enlarged beyond life and pasted clandestinely along walls that line the streets.   When the 2005 riots in Paris occurred, JR’s larger than life photo of a young black man holding a menacing gun was the background of video clippings of the riot. 

In 2007, JR managed the biggest illegal photo exhibition ever. He posted huge portraits of Israelis and Palestinians face to face in eight Palestinian and Israeli cities, and on the both sides of the Security fence / Separation wall.

His project “Women” is my favorite.  Recognizing that women are often the targets of conflict, he portrays their dignity in inescapable ways – like in a town in Rio

and in a Kenyan village.  Note the train at the top of the photo.  When it passes the village, it delivers eyes to the photos along the hillside.

JR continues his graffiti persona.  He remains relatively anonymous; I’ve not seen photos or videos where he is not hiding behind sunglasses.

As a recipient of the 2011 TED award, he uses his $100,000 prize for his “One Wish to Change the World.”  His project INSIDE OUT is a large-scale participatory art project that transforms messages of personal identity into pieces of artistic work. People upload portraits on his website ( and they can receive a poster to be pasted for the world to see.  You can learn more about JR at


Note: The contents of this posting are purely for my pleasure. Information and photographs are from the aforementioned websites and I encourage you to visit these websites.  Many thanks to TED for spreading ideas worth spreading!

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