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VOL. 39 | NO. 52 | Friday, December 25, 2015

Artist’s goal to turn entire roundabout into art

By Linda Bryant | Correspondent

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Christian Moeller, artist

-- Submitted

Christian Moeller’s public art is sprinkled around the globe.

His work appears in locations such as the Changi Airport in Singapore, the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, the Science Museum in London, Frederieke Taylor Gallery in New York City, Phaeno in Wolfsburg, Germany, Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle and Centro Cultural Candido Mendes in Rio de Janeiro.

Add the Roundabout near Music City Center in Nashville to that international list.

Miller’s Roundabout piece, “Stix,’’ is a composition of native hardwood and natural colors – red orange, light blue, dark blue, light green and egg white. It is meant, in part, as homage to the Native Americans who first populated Middle Tennessee. The piece remains under construction.

When finished, it will have approximately 27 painted red cedar poles standing 70 feet tall. The poles will be spaced in an irregular organic pattern throughout the surface area of the Roundabout.

“During this process, I revisited Native American arts and was reminded of the striking distribution of color applied to natural surfaces, very often wood, in these native works,” says Moeller. “Instead of developing an artwork for the roundabout, my goal became to turn the entire roundabout into an artwork.”

The “Stix’ exhibit, expected to be completed in early 2016 is a large structure so it doesn’t get lost when the surrounding skycrapers are finished.

-- Lyle Graves

The native German now lives near Los Angeles, where he is a professor in the Department of Design/Media Arts at the University of California-Los Angeles.

The Ledger spoke with Moeller about the challenges of “Stix,’’ and about his newfound appreciation for Music City.

What was your biggest challenge in creating the “Stix,’’ public art sculpture?

“This was the first time I had the opportunity to design an art work on a roundabout where the visual perception of the piece for a viewer was likely to be from an in-motion circular perspective. So the challenge was to create a landmark, something of true urban scale in height and volume, which was visible from afar and worth looking at from multiple angles.’’

Did you get to know Nashville during this project?

“Yes. I have visited Nashville multiple times.

“The first time I was invited by the artist Mel Chin and the Neuhoff philanthropist Stephen McRedmond to give a public lecture at the Nashville Cultural Arts Project. Soon thereafter, I came again to give a lecture at Vanderbilt University.

“The hospitality I experienced during these brief visits to Tennessee still ranks as one of the best traveling experiences I have had in the United States. I learned that whiskey doesn’t need to come from Scotland to be good, and I learned to love the deep appreciation this town has for music.’’

How did you come up with the Native American theme for “Stix,’’

“Actually, that was not my original intent. The only reference to Native American art I made was showing an image of a beautiful totem pole at an early stage of the project development. I did this in order to give an example of how the colors I proposed to use would contrast with the grayish, silver patina that the wooden poles would develop over time.

“What I wanted to come up with was a very American theme. And I found my way to this through the use of wooden utility poles. Our power and communication needs are supported in essence by trees that have been refashioned into utility poles and run the length of many of our streets and roadways.

“For me, these poles have come to represent a very iconic image of the American landscape. To make an artwork out of these giant “sticks” was something very intriguing for me.

“I think if you would try to build a piece like “Stix,’’ in similar size with native materials in countries like Germany or Japan, you would not be able to find trees of such grand dimensions and straightness to begin with.’’

Why do you value public art?

“The public in our western world had no access to any visual art until the end of the 18th century. Art works on display could only be found in the elite circles of royalty, aristocrats and church leaders.

“After Napoleon¹s defeat, many of the art works he’d stolen during his European conquest now had to make it back to their countries of origin.

However, quite a few pieces were not returned to their former owners, but instead ended up in the “museum,” a totally new invention of its time, which allowed the common people public access to these art works.

“Public art is part of this evolving transition. It is installed outside the museum, giving everyone unrestricted access to the art without regard for time. Furthermore, it adds a great deal of identity to our urban environment.’’

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