utter pure magical delight – thank you Janet Echelman

Floating high above a busy intersection in Sydney’s CBD is a piece of utter pure magical delight.

Tsunami 1.26 is created by the acclaimed american artist Janet Echelman, it is made from a form of netting and coloured by a shifting light show.  The inspiration for the work was the 1.26 microsecond shortening of the day that resulted from the earthquake’s redistribution of the Earth’s mass (yes, I too didn’t know that had happened).  It is one of the works in the Powerhouse Museum’s Love Lace exhibition and is also part of Art and About and will be floating till 23 October, 2011.  I first learnt about Janet from watching her talk at Ted, if you have time I highly recommend you check it out here.

I was compelled to capture its beauty.  So a couple of nights ago a friend and I waited till late and set off to take these photos.  And not just any photos. Thanks to my creative and talented mate Hayden Cook who is part of Newtown Flicks (NF) we were using a super duper camera (the kind that doesn’t fit in your pocket).  So a big thank you goes to NF for the lend of the equipment I would never have been able to capture 1.26’s magnificance otherwise.  And also to Hayden for his skill and expertise in taking the photos (I was pretty much the official camera bag holder, though I did take about ten frames and directed a few shots).  If your looking at the photos in a tad of disbelief, believe me when I say these photos have not been photoshopped or edited (outside of cropping).  The forms, the colours and the way it dissolves and then comes to life with the surrounding buildings is truly astonishing.

I have always been drawn to individuals who have carved their own way, who are not guided by normal conventions.  And who leverage setback and rejection into a masterpiece of their choosing.  Hence my love affair with Janet Echelman and her large scale floating sculptures. Read on…..

From her Ted talk I learnt that she applied to seven art schools on leaving college and was rejected by all of them.  All seven.  So she went off on her own and painted.  Later in India on a full bright scholarship with a painting exhibition deadline looming she had a wee problem, her paints hadn’t arrived.  So on the spot, right then and there she decided to try a new medium – Sculpture.  Inspired by the local village fisherman and their fishing nets she started what is now the creation of these beautiful net sculptures which grace cities around the world.

These delightful creations were born from necessity and shaped from the teachings of local craftspeople.  From the traditions of Indian fisherman and their nets to Lithuanian lace makers to America’s Cup sail makers, Janet is the quintessential collaborator.  She mentions numerous times that in the development of these sculptures they have not known how to do something, or the technology didn’t exist…….so they learnt, or created what they needed too to make it happen. They just did.  And look what they made……

The story of Janet’s creative career and the development of these sculptures is a source of great inspiration for me.  She has taken her imagination and pursued it with unrelenting focus and joy.  She has not needed approval from the usual conventional places we generally want it from before we feel qualified to say we are something ie: university, qualifications and training – “I was an unlikely person to be doing this.  I never studied sculpture, engineering or architecture”.

Janet Echelman is the ultimate alchemical hustler.  Her story inspires me to move forward and just create.  And do.  Do with utter determination.  And to remember what magic can be created in the heart of collaboration.

If you live in Sydney, I highly recommend you check out this work (on George St in front of the Townhall).


About maree

I'm creative and curious and love writing about the fine and messy art of creating an authentic joy laden life.


  1. beautiful! I am SO going to check it out and hope it inspires me even just a fraction of how it has you!

  2. me too. inspiration aside its just lovely to see something so magical and wonderful. enjoy!

  3. stunning!,gorgeous colours – how idyllic – floating high without a care in the world and people captured by your beauty!Green one to me resembles a ‘fish’. Full credit to Janet – amazing talent. Sydney offers so many lovely free ‘entertainment’ Well done Hayden for the photos and of course for the ‘offical camera bag holder’-we wouldn’t be able to share the beauty otherwise.

  4. Helen

    tell me, is it a bunch of all different coloured ones or one net with different lights under it, i cant quite see where it says that? Lovely all the same.

  5. Helen

    oh, just re read it and see it is lights, fantastic.

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